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ACT "Slum" Landlord sentenced
Canberra’s so-called “slum” landlord has been sentenced to 450 hours of community service for operating illegal boarding houses crammed with dozens of people.
The ACT Magistrates Court heard conditions were so filthy and overcrowded in Jason Qiang Hua Fan’s properties that one family made their children urinate in a bucket overnight so they would not have to use a dirty shared bathroom.
Fan, 50, told the court he just wanted to help people find accommodation and asked why authorities had not told him to clean up the rental homes beforehand. He has pleaded guilty to charges of carrying out a public health risk activity without a licence and allowing insanitary conditions to exist.
In July 2010 the ACT Government raided five houses owned by Fan or his then-wife Li Wei, shutting down the houses after declaring them unfit for human habitation. The houses were dirty, infested with vermin and subdivided to add extra bedrooms and facilities. The court heard one house in Downer had 32 people squeezed into 11 bedrooms, including three rooms attached to an outside shed and another property at Scullin had a “makeshift toilet” attached to an exterior tap and a backyard pit filled with garbage.About 80 people, including families with young children, had to be placed in emergency accommodation after the raid.
The five properties have since been sold.
Speaking through an interpreter, Fan told the court he admitted he had done something wrong but said he did not intend to be a criminal and had not realized he needed a licence to run a boarding house. “I just wanted to help people,” he said. “Why did the authorities not send me the notice indicating that my house was not hygienic? If I was told I would have understood and I would have made changes.”Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said Fan had clearly been running a “lucrative commercial enterprise” and blamed his tenants for the squalid conditions when authorities interviewed him. But she noted that the there was no criticism of the tenants, who had often managed to keep their own rooms tidy and neat despite the overcrowded conditions. She said there was a real risk to public health from Fan’s overcrowded homes, particularly from the lack of hygiene, the makeshift electrical work and the “sheer number of people living in close quarters”.
Ms Walker fined Fan $3300 and ordered him to perform 450 hours of community service. He was also placed on a good-behaviour order for two years.
Monday, 18 June, 2012
By Natasha Rudra
TUACT - This is a disappointing result considering the amount of money the landlord had made from these tenants, and the conditions they were living in. It is obviously no disincentive when the fine does not even total the rent collected for a week. It clearly shows the desperate need for changes to our tenancy legislation to stop this from happening.