News

Crackdown on rogue landlords in Greenwich leads to fines of £25,000

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Two irresponsible landlords have been fined almost £25,000 following successful prosecutions by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Rogue Landlords team.

The Royal Borough set up a new housing enforcement team in 2013 to take robust action against rogue landlords who fail to manage their property safely. To date, well over 1,000 properties have been visited and landlords have been instructed to make hundreds of improvements where poor standards and dangers to tenants have been found. 

In extreme cases the Royal Borough will take legal action to tackle rogue landlords and the latest two cases were concluded at Bexley Magistrates Court on Tuesday 9 June 2015.

Local landlord Siteworth Ltd was ordered to pay £19,720 including the council’s prosecution costs and a victim surcharge, for failing to manage their property to satisfactory standards. Siteworth Ltd pleaded guilty to nine offences. Siteworth Ltd’s sole director, Mr Timothy Knight, also admitted the offences and accepted a caution from the court.

The house, a two storey Victorian property on Footscray Road in Eltham, had been split into eight bedsit style units, most consisting of an open plan living/sleeping area with a small kitchenette. Tenants shared the communal bathroom and toilet facilities.

This case came to the attention of the team in 2014 when local MP Clive Efford reported the tenants’ concerns to the council. They complained to him that there were four flats without hot water, no heating in the hallways, bathrooms with visible mould and damp, rotten window frames without locks (which invalidated any contents insurance), no fan in a kitchen window, an overgrown garden and repairs in the property taking many months to be arranged.

Tenants told the team they had no hot water for a number of years and when they complained to him about this Mr Knight said that they should boil a kettle for all their needs. Council officers carried out an inspection and found evidence to support the tenants’ allegations as well as other serious breaches of housing management regulations including inadequate fire safety protection and inadequate heating in the flats.

The tenants had to live with the poor conditions for a considerable period of time. From information obtained from the tenants the team estimated Siteworth and Mr Knight made approximately £44,000 per year in rents from this property, with no mortgage.

As well as bringing the court case the team required the landlord to undertake a range of improvements and the property has now been brought up to an acceptable standard. 

Some of Mr Knight’s former tenants were present in court to see justice done and said they are happy that the landlord had been prosecuted although they felt there is still more to be done like harsher sentences for slum landlords and mandatory inspections to prevent this from happening in the future.

In the second prosecution, Mr Hajaj was prosecuted for operating a large house in multiple occupation (HMO) on Greenwich High Road without a licence and failing to provide information requested when the team served a legal notice on him. Mr Hajaj was found guilty of both offences and ordered to pay a total of £3,201.66 including the council’s costs and victim surcharge; all to be paid within 21 days.

The property was a three storey terraced house with an occupied basement. It was occupied by students and consisted of 6 bedrooms, two bathrooms, a toilet and a shared kitchen.

The tenants had complained to the team about their living conditions. Council officers inspected and found that Mr Hajaj should have had a licence for the property. In Greenwich, HMOs that are 3 or more storeys high and house 5 or more people who don’t live as one household require a licence to operate because of greater risks to tenants’ safety.

A HMO licence application pack and reminder letters were sent to Mr Hajaj and officers telephoned him several times to remind him to apply, but no application was received and so the council started legal proceedings against him.

Now their landlord has been convicted of failing to obtain a licence, the law allows the tenants to claim back up to 12 months rent. The Council will offer Mr Hajaj’s tenants every assistance if they decide to apply for a rent repayment order.

Mr Hajaj has informed the team that there are now 3 tenants living at the property and therefore no licence is needed. The team will continue to monitor the property.

Councillor Jackie Smith, Royal Borough of Greenwich Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment said:

Improving the quality of private rented homes and protecting tenants from greedy and exploitative landlords is at the heart our Rogue Landlord scheme.  The Royal Borough will push for the strongest possible action to protect private tenants and ensure they have somewhere to live that is safe and properly managed. Tenants must also feel that they can raise issues with their landlords without the fear of losing their home.

We know that the majority of private landlords are professionals and offer decent rented accommodation. The team are always happy to offer advice to landlords on how they can meet their legal responsibilities.  We also has a range of measures in place to support responsible landlords including help to bring the quality of their properties up to standard and opportunities to lease their properties to the council to provide safe and secure homes for local families in need."

Anyone who has concerns about unsafe or badly managed privately rented properties can report them to the Greenwich Rogue Landlords team by telephoning 020 8921 8157 or by email to residentialservices@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.  Private landlords are also welcome to contact the team for advice about licensing requirements, maintaining safe standards and good management in their properties.

Greenwich Council have also established a Landlords Business Club and for further information you can call 020 8921 2531 or email hactrac@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

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