In a highly unusual move, Waltham Forest Council served an Interim Management Order on a landlord last week after he refused to make it safe for the 15 tenants living there. Four people were discovered living in beds in a shed in the garden and a further 12 people were living inside the property, which had been divided into five separate bedsits (contrary to planning regulations).
The landlord was raking in more than £4k per month in rent, but unfortunately he wasn’t spending any of the cash on essential repairs to the house and he hadn’t bothered paying any Council Tax for four years. Not surprisingly, council housing officials were not prepared to ignore such a blatant disregard for the system.
Essential Repairs to be Carried Out
Tenants living at the property will be allowed to continue staying there. Instead of paying rent to the landlord, however, they will pay rent directly to Waltham Forest Council. In the meantime, council housing officials will employ a contractor make essential building repairs and deduct the cost of repairs from any rent received.
“It’s obviously a last resort for us to have to take control of a property away from its owner, but we were given no choice due to this landlord’s poor attitude and lack of concern for the safety of his tenants,” said Councillor Limbajee.
Council officials have now changed the locks on the property. They say they hope the landlord will come forward to settle his debts and sort out the problems with his property.
A London landlord sought to take advantage of the housing shortage by squeezing 28 tenants into an unlicensed two-storey house in Stoke Newington. When officers raided the property early one morning, they were shocked to discover that each of the property’s bedrooms contained two bunk beds to maximise space.
Squalid Conditions in an Unlicensed HMO
Conditions in the property were described as “squalid” and the house only had one kitchen and one bathroom for all 28 tenants, which must have proven a challenge at busy times of the day. The landlord had also ignored basic fire safety legislation, as there were no fire alarms in the property. In addition, he had also carried out an illegal loft conversion to create extra living space.
Landlord Fined £20k
The landlord was prosecuted for managing an unlicensed HMO. Thames Magistrates Court fined him £20,000.
Councillor Philip Glanville, Cabinet Minister for Housing at Hackney Council, made this comment after the successful resolution of the case:
“The lack of any basic fire safety at this jam-packed property put lives at risk, and this maximum fine serves as a warning that we won’t stand by when we see unsafe conditions in Hackney’s homes.
“We’re determined to drive up standards for private renters in Hackney, and we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action and press for the strongest penalties for landlords who flout the rules.
“Those who seek to take advantage of London’s housing crisis for personal profit have no place in our borough.”
Sadiq Khan, Labour’s mayoral hopeful, has set out plans for a new referendum on the housing crisis. He plans to introduce a website where the capital’s rogue landlords will be named and shamed. He hopes that the website will help people looking for rental accommodation in London score a much better deal. He is also hoping to set up a non-profit letting agency in London, which would promote good landlords who offer their tenants stable rents.
A Database of Landlords in London
The new website is based on a similar scheme implemented by the New York mayor, Bill de Blasio. It would act as a comprehensive database of landlords who have previously been prosecuted for housing offences.
The Government is “Not Doing Enough” Says Khan
Mr Khan says the Tory government is not doing enough to help renters in the capital, although David Cameron has recently announced plans to crack down on rogue landlords and dodgy letting agents.
Speaking at the launch of his mayoral manifesto today in Canary Wharf, Mr Khan told his audience: “Most landlords treat their tenants well, but I’m determined to name and shame the rogue ones who break the rules.”
Mr Khan also plans to tackle a number of other issues, including freezing high fares, tackling extremism, improving air quality and cycling routes, dealing with skills shortages and low wages, and introducing better neighbourhood policing strategies.
Zac Goldsmith, Mr Khan’s main rival, remains sceptical. “Khan’s plans don’t survive even the gentlest scrutiny,” he said. “This isn’t a manifesto, it’s fantasy politics.”
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has just announced a £5 million pot of cash will be made available to 48 councils to help them tackle the problem of rogue landlords. The pot will be shared between the individual councils.
Beds in Sheds Blight
Beds-in-sheds landlords are a massive problem in some parts of the country. Unfortunately these landlords are very difficult to find, so councils struggle to identify them in order to take legal action. The extra money will enable local council housing officers to conduct more raids on suspect properties, demolish garden buildings, and issue statutory notices.
In a statement published in the gov.uk website, the Housing Minister says:
“Many private rental tenants are happy with their home and the service they receive, but there are still rogue landlords that exploit vulnerable people and force their tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid accommodation.
“We are determined to tackle these rogues, which is why we are providing 48 councils with extra funding, so they can get rid of the cowboy operators in their area and bring an end to tenants living in miserable homes in the name of profit.
“We also want to raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation across the sector. The funding will ensure tenants know what level of service they can expect and have confidence to get help and take action if things go wrong.”
Housing and Planning Bill Proposals
The funding is part of a package included in the Housing and Planning Bill. Other measures include implementing a database of rogue landlords and ‘Right to Rent’ checks.
A Manchester landlord with two apartments in a posh block in Spinningfields has been ordered by the management company in charge of the apartments to stop renting his properties out to short-term tenants.
Party Loving Tenants Welcome
Managers at the up-market apartment building complex claim the landlord has been advertising his properties on holiday websites and attracting party-loving tenants who go out clubbing and then continue partying all night long, often with music blaring out until 5 AM (much to the disgust of residents living in neighbouring apartments).
Neighbours claim there are around 30 parties a year in the apartments, which causes considerable disturbance to them. The landlord disagrees with this assertion. He says that in the ten years since he has owned the apartments, there has only been loud noise “once or twice”.
Injunction Served on Landlord
Despite evidence to the contrary, the landlord has denied renting his properties as short-term lets and claims he only ever rents them to professionals. Unfortunately the management company don’t believe him and have now secured an injunction from Manchester Civil Justice centre to prevent him from letting the apartments out on a short-term basis.
According to the director of the management company: “For a long time we have had issues with people who have been letting out the flats like a hotel and as ‘party lets’. This particular couple advertise them for rental over one night or a week, which is against the rules of the lease.”
However, as the landlord points out, even long-term tenants can be disruptive.
A woman from Gravesend has returned from a dream trip to South America to discover tenants have trashed her home in the interim. She is now facing financial ruin as the tenants refuse to move out and the letting agency has gone into liquidation.
Not In Safe Hands
Claire Deane went abroad for five years and left her two-bed terrace home in the care of a local letting agency. She mistakenly believed that her home would be in safe hands while she travelled the world, but sadly this was not the case at all. The small property was in immaculate condition before Ms Deane went abroad and she expected it to be in a similar state when she returned. Instead the property was filthy, there are holes in the walls, broken doors and windows, rubbish everywhere, and in the garden the weeds are waist high.
Claire said: “What started out five years ago as an adventure of a life time travelling in South America unfortunately ended with the sad realisation of how people can have such disrespect for other people’s possessions and complete lack of morals to allow this to happen.
“The tenants were due to move out on 29 August, so I was shocked to find the house in a complete state with them still living there.”
The rent has not been paid since the end of July, although the letting agency was able to collect the rent prior to this, and an assessment by another letting agent has indicated that Ms Deane will have to spend a lot of money to correct the damage.
Keep an Eye on Things
And the moral of this story is? Don’t leave your rental property in the hands of a letting agent without checking up on them periodically.
An investigation carried out by consumer group, Which? has found that only two out of ten gas engineers from a different firms, which included five big name companies and five independent heating engineers chosen at random, performed the right checks on gas boilers. Based on the results of the study, the UK consumer group concluded that people’s lives were being put at risk unnecessarily.
British Gas and Corgi engineers were the only two companies whose engineers carried out the minimum legal checks required when attending a call-out. However, none of the engineers actually tested the boilers according the manufacturer’s service instructions. The consumer group also discovered that extreme high pressure within the boilers was only corrected by six of the gas engineers. There were many other defects that were not dealt with, including potential boiler leaks from the boiler’s casing and unburned gas leaks, plus two of the engineers lied about safety checks made.
“The results are shocking, with most engineers we put to the test failing to do what is legally required,” said Richard Lloyd, Executive director from Which?
“Faulty boilers could have serious or even fatal consequences for consumers so more must be done to check up on and crack down on incompetent engineers.”
Gas Safety Register
Which? has now shared its findings with the Gas Safety Register, the official gas registration body for the UK, Isle of Man and Guernsey. All gas heating engineers must be listed on the Gas Safety Register, so it is important to check an engineers credentials before you book him or her to service any gas appliances in your rental properties.
Housing charity, Shelter, says slum landlords are getting away with “nothing more than a slap on the wrist” despite having multiple convictions to their name, which means they can continue running their housing businesses as usual. Campaign group, Generation Rent, agrees:
“Criminal landlords are raking in £5bn in rent a year, so the fines are a drop in the ocean. If we can’t hurt slumlords with fines, they won’t be driven out of the market.”
Britain’s Worst Landlord
To illustrate the problem, a landlord from Haringey, North London, has the dubious distinction of having her name at the top of a list of housing offence convictions. Katia Goremsandu has been convicted seven times for housing offences and fined £16,565. Meanwhile her rental income is estimated at around £188,000 a year, much of which is paid by the government in the form of Housing Benefit.
Goremsandu was prosecuted in 2014 for using a sticker to cover up a warning light on a faulty fire alarm; in 2012 she left her tenants without heating for prolonged periods of time; and in the same year she let out a damp house for more than a year. Despite her numerous convictions, the landlord claims she is being “victimised” by the council and that they should have given her more help to deal with the repairs.
Two landlords from the Midlands also feature highly on the list. They were fined £18,000 for renting a flat with a leaking room, no central heating and dangerous electrics.
Housing Convictions Rising
Housing convictions have risen from one in 2006 to 428 in 2015, with the majority of convictions taking place in east London.
Recent research carried out on behalf of removal firm, Kiwi Movers, has revealed that many tenants are not getting their full deposits back when they vacate a rental property.
Landlords Holding On to Deposits
The survey questioned 1,034 people and the results indicated that landlords withheld 52 per cent of all deposits, either fully or partially. If you look at the bigger picture, this figure represents more than 400k deposits, which is a lot of money. In total, 80 per cent of tenants questioned said they had experienced problems when trying to get their deposit back at the end of a tenancy.
Why do Landlords Withhold Deposits?
There are many reasons why landlords decide to keep a tenant’s deposit, but the people questioned in this survey cited cleaning and minor repair issues as the main reason in this survey. Of course it is hardly surprising this is the case. Calling in a cleaning company to thoroughly clean the carpets and making repairs all takes time and money; so most landlords will pass this back to the tenant.
25 per cent of tenants had to wait ages for their deposit to be returned, even though there was no reason to hold on to the money and a further 25 per cent only got their money back after a dispute with the landlord. Tenants living in London had the biggest problems.
20 per cent were lucky enough to get their deposit back without any issues.
Landlords – why would you hold on to a tenant’s deposit? Let us know in the comments!
I’m used to reading stories in the press about greedy landlords who refuse to spend money on their properties, but still expect the monthly rent to be paid on time. Sadly this is becoming an increasingly common situation with the rise in people moving into the private rental sector, but even so, when a BBC news story tells me that almost a third of private rented properties in a large city do not meet basic living standards, it does give me cause for concern!
According to the BBC news story (which was quoting figures given to them by Shelter, the leading housing charity), almost 30% of rented homes in Bristol are in a poor state of repair, with no modern facilities and inadequate heating.
The charity says it is seeing large numbers of people coming to them with tales of damp, mouldy, and sometimes dangerous homes. One case quoted described a completely appalling state of affairs: the young tenant had been forced to live in a rented house with a leaking roof and holes in the ceilings, but although the landlord was aware of the problems, he did nothing about them. And to make matters worse, the council housing officer bluntly told her that they could come and inspect the property, tell the landlord to do the work, but the most likely outcome would be an eviction notice served to her, which is hardly a great incentive.
The council has of course defended itself by saying it does prosecute ‘bad’ landlords, but efforts to improve the standards in the private sector are hindered by a lack of funding…