£13,000 fines for landlords who left Tower Hamlets tenants’ lives at risk

Two Tower Hamlets landlords and a company director who left their tenants at risk of fire, failed to repair serious leaks, and operated without a landlord licence, were ordered to pay more than £13,300 after pleading guilty to a total of 11 offences under the Housing Act 2004 at Thames Magistrates Court on March 8 2018.
The court heard that the ex-council flat in Clifton House on the famous Grade II listed Boundary Estate, was owned by Barking-based Mr Muhammed Nazrul Haque.
Mr Haque had rented the flat to the agent Oceans Property Limited of 118 Stepney Way, London E1 3BG under a “guaranteed rent” arrangement.  The sole director of Oceans Property was a Mr Kamal Hassan Shumon from Whitechapel.  Oceans Property separately let each room in the property to tenants, thereby changing its use from a family dwelling to a house in multiple occupation (HMO).
The court was told that although both landlords received significant income from tenants, in a much sought after part of London, neither applied for a landlord licence despite being requested to do so by the council.
An inspection by the council’s environmental health team on June 30 last year found the property to be poorly managed and with major fire safety concerns.
Among the serious fire risks discovered included a lack of fire doors, an inadequate fire detection system, disconnected smoke alarms and minimal fire safety information.
A council notice requiring a leak in the shower room to be repaired was ignored so the leak continued for six months, causing damage to flats on the three floors below.  The water supply to the shower had also been disconnected, leaving tenants without shower facilities for 16 days.
Each landlord claimed the other was responsible for meeting legal requirements, whilst leaving occupiers at risk, and those living in the neighbouring flats were greatly inconvenienced by the leak.
Tom McCourt, Tower Hamlets Council’s Strategic Director said: “Tower Hamlets has one of the fastest growing populations in the country, and as one of the smallest London boroughs, this combination puts huge pressure on the availability and quality of private rented housing.
“This case highlights the problems that can arise in unsafe and poorly managed HMOs.  It’s not acceptable for landlords to believe that their only obligation is to collect high rents for desirable locations, and ignore their legal responsibilities to ensure their properties are well maintained and their tenants have adequate safety measures in place.”
The property falls within the part of the borough which is covered by a selective licensing scheme.  The scheme covers all privately rented accommodation, but includes multiple occupied properties that house three or more people, living as two or more households.  Under the scheme, the council is able to vet landlords to ensure that they are fit to be in charge of rented accommodation and regulate their properties so that they are properly managed and not overcrowded.  More information about the selective licensing scheme can be found by clicking here.
The council is currently consulting on plans to create an Additional Licensing scheme covering HMOs in the rest of the borough and wants to hear from landlords, agents, tenants and others who wish to give their views on the scheme.  The consultation ends on May 24 2018 and details are available by opening the ‘Houses/flats in multiple occupation’ link available on the council’s consultation webpage: www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/consultation
Information on fire safety advice for landlords and tenants can also be found on the council’s website here.
The council also has worked in partnership with housing and community partners to create the Tower Hamlets Renters’ Charter, which outlines the comprehensive range of rights and support available to residents in the private rented sector.  More information is available on the council website: www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/privaterenterscharter

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