Tower Hamlets welcomes extra measures to tackle rogue landlords
Tower Hamlets council’s proactive policies to safeguard private renters and tackle rogue landlords have been further strengthened as it becomes one of the first London boroughs to contribute to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord checker.
The new checker is a London-wide database which will eventually include details of successful prosecutions and fines against landlords or letting agents convicted of housing offences.
Tower Hamlets Council enforcement action against Foxtons Estate Agents is currently the highest value fine against an agent on the checker. The agents were fined a record £35,000 following a prosecution brought by the council after it failed to provide the correct documentation, including gas and fire safety, for a rental property in Whitechapel.
More recently, they were also required to pay the council’s legal cost of £820 following an unsuccessful challenge against the original prosecution.
Enforcement action has impact far beyond simple punishment: as a result of this action, Foxtons are changing their procedures and practices across London, including in relation to fees, licensing, and compliance with notices.
Raising the quality of private rented housing has already been top priority for the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the council. In June 2017, the council received widespread support from renters and landlord organisations, as well as consumer bodies for its Tower Hamlets Renters’ Charter.
The Renters’ Charter was officially launched by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, and Statutory Deputy Mayor Cllr Sirajul Islam, who is Tower Hamlets Cabinet Member for Housing.
The Charter is available on the council website www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/privaterenterscharter. It includes practical information on the standards renters can legally expect from their landlords and agents, and the steps that the council and partner agencies will take where those standards are not met. Every private renter has the right to live in a safe and secure home and to be treated fairly, and the council will always consider enforcement action where landlords and agents do not respect those rights.
Another successful council prosecution listed on the Checker was against two landlords and a company director who left their tenants at risk of fire, failed to repair serious leaks, and operated without a landlord licence. They 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.
Both landlords received significant income from tenants at Clifton House on the famous Grade II listed Boundary Estate. Neither had applied for a landlord licence despite being requested to do so by the council.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said, “Improving the quality of the private rented sector is a key part of my housing strategy. I’m pleased that our borough already has strong safeguards and procedures to protect private renters and take firm action against those landlords who flout the law. We are committed to empowering renters and between our Renters’ Charter and the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord checker, dodgy landlords should get the message that we will not tolerate their bad behaviour.”
Statutory Deputy Mayor Cllr Sirajul Islam who is also Tower Hamlets Cabinet Member for Housing said, “For the first time in generations there are more private renters in the borough than social housing tenants. We also have one of the fastest growing populations in the country, so this will place further pressure on private housing stock. These added pressures can never be an excuse for landlords or agents to cut corners or fail to provide good quality housing that meets their legal requirements. Our strong record shows that we will always seek to enforce against those landlords happy to charge high rents without taking their responsibilities seriously.”
The council has just completed consultation on plans to create an additional licensing scheme covering Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) across the borough, and will announce its plans later in the year.