Five Leeds University students have been forced to move out of their accommodation after finding out their landlord was a registered sex offender without a license to rent the property.
Businessman Gulam Bobat told the residents that he was their landlord, despite lacking a Housing in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) licence. Instead, his son was listed as the license holder, despite dealings being made with Gulam.
When one resident looked up Gulam’s contact details online she discovered that he had been sentenced to 12 months in prison in 2010 for inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, as well as six counts of sexual assault.
The court heard that Gulam had given money, alcohol, cannabis, and cigarettes to under-age girls so that he could kiss and touch them. He was told to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
The tenants found the house in April through Unipol’s website, which advertised the property despite the Bobats not being Unipol accredited.
Alex Pearson, the Principle Housing Officer from Leeds council’s HMO Licensing Team told LS that Gulam Bobat has been refused an HMO license due to his convictions.
Bobat’s son currently holds the HMO license for the property. Pearson said:
“We’ll call around [his] houses again very shortly and make sure his father isn’t too involved.”
LS asked Unipol whether it checks landlords’ personal history before endorsing them. Development Manager Victoria Loverseed stated, “If you’re not accredited and you choose to advertise with UniPol then we don’t do any checks on the landlord”.
She added: “We couldn’t do a criminal records check on all our landlords on our website, it wouldn’t be feasible and it would be an invasion of their privacy.”
Once she had moved into the house, resident Sally Cooling decided the property was “not really liveable”. Problems included broken fire doors, mould and a faulty fire alarm system. Having also discovered Gulam’s sexual offences the residents looked for a way to end their contract and sought support from the Union’s Student Advice Centre and Unipol
Cooling described being “let down” by Unipol, saying she was told, “there’s nothing you can do and you have to stay there”. Sally told LS she was “homeless for a month” as she felt she couldn’t stay in the house. She warned students about Unipol, claiming they “don’t seem to care about students at all.”
The residents struck a deal with Gulam, creating a custom contract agreeing to pay him £1, 500 to be released from the original contract.
LS spoke to Unipol who reassured students of the importance of their services:
“If [students] rent with an accredited landlord then there is a level of accountability. They can have confidence that some of the properties have been checked.”
Giovanni Da Costa
Photo: Leo Garbutt