Rogue landlords forced to fork out thousands in fines for failures
Fines totalling more than a quarter-of-a-million pounds were issued to rogue landlords in Barking and Dagenham last year.
Offences included failing to have a licence, ignoring enforcement notices, and operating illegal houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
The council became the first in the country to make it mandatory for all private landlords in the borough to have a licence – helping make sure homes are safe and protect renters.
There have been around 15,000 applications for licences since the borough-wide scheme launched in 2019, although it is estimated around a quarter of all housing in Barking and Dagenham is private rented accommodation.
As a result, there are still landlords who choose to flaunt the rules, including one instance where council enforcement officers received a tip off about an unlicensed overcrowded property.
At an address on Mayfair Avenue, inspectors found 13 people living in a four-bedroom house.
Councillor Margaret Mullane, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety, said: “We know the majority of landlords in our borough understand their responsibilities – both legally and morally – to their tenants and provide much needed homes that are safe to live in.
“However, there are unfortunately some unsavoury landlords who choose to flout the rules, and that is where we will use all the legal powers available to us to take action to improve living conditions for our residents.”
Under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, councils can pursue civil penalties instead of taking matters to the court.
Landlords whose properties fail to meet a required standard are issued an enforcement notice, which gives them a set time period to carry out any remedial work.
However, if they ignore the notice, which carries a fine of £520, they can be issued a civil penalty notice (CPN), which has a maximum penalty of up to £30,000.
Last year, the council issued 117 CPNs to the tune of £271,310 and 89 enforcement notices totalling over £46,000.
Cllr Mullane added: “Our pioneering licensing scheme has helped drive up the standards of private rental properties in our borough, but as some of these hefty fines show, we won’t hesitate to take action against the few who continue to put profit ahead of people and leave residents living in dangerous, poorly maintained homes.”
A total of 14 joint operations were carried out with the Met Police, including one where the property was been used as a brothel and found to be operating an illegal HMO property on Reede Road. The landlord in that particular case has been prosecuted and is awaiting the court hearing.
The council also investigated 99 cases of illegal eviction and handled 122 cases of landlord harassment over the past year – a significant rise on the year before the coronavirus pandemic.
The council’s private licensing scheme, which covers the entire borough, was the first of its kind to be given the green light by the government in the country.
Landlords should contact the council as soon as possible if they’re not registered and the council is also encouraging residents/tenants to let them know if they’re aware of a landlord who isn’t registered. Both, landlords and residents can contact the council by emailing email@example.com.