Plea to crack down on London's rogue landlords letting 'beds in sheds'

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The Government was today urged to back a London-wide crackdown on rogue landlords, using a pioneering model that has secured more than 1,000 prosecutions.

Newham council has called on the Housing Minister Alok Sharma to renew its Private Rented Sector (PRS) licensing scheme until 2022 to target slum landlords.

It has pursued property owners for illegally sub-letting properties or cramming dozens of people into sheds, garages and makeshift shelters. 

The council now needs Government approval to extend PRS and believe it could be adopted by other London councils. PRS differs from other landlord licences as it covers all HMO (house in multiple occupation) properties, rather than just larger ones. The mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, said: “It is appalling the way people are being made to live by landlords who are just out to rip people off.

“We need to stop people being exploited by criminal elements.”

So far 28 landlords have been banned from operating in Newham and 1,135 prosecutions have been brought. Sir Robin said he also wanted tougher sanctions for landlords who flout the rules and mistreat tenants.

He added: “We need strong powers to sentence landlords. Why shouldn’t the landlord also lose the house? 

“We want to show if you exploit someone you will lose everything.

“We want the Government to bring in much stronger penalties.

“If you’re making £3,000 a month from a property why should they stop doing it? There has to be a greater risk than reward.”

Police and council enforcement officers visited four Newham properties yesterday morning after reports the houses were being used illegally.

They included a £500,000 three bedroom terraced home in Ranelagh Road with more than 10 people sharing four bedrooms and a gazebo in the back garden. Officers believe it was rented for £1,750 a month and had been extended without planning permission.

A property in Terrace Road had been converted into a hotel with rooms rented out on a short-term basis.

One occupant, a university student from Singapore said he paid £350 for eight nights’ stay on a well-known bookings website. 

But he had been barred by the apparent landlords from using the shared kitchen.

Most properties are targeted for licensing breaches, flouting fire safety and building regulations.

The council’s PRS scheme has been backed in a letter to the borough by London Fire Brigade commander Rhys Powell.

He wrote: “While we cannot put a number on it, there is no doubt in my mind that the PRS has saved lives.”

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “We’re determined to stamp out rogue landlords who exploit often vulnerable tenants and make their lives a misery. 

“That’s why our Housing and Planning Act introduced a range of measures to tackle those landlords that flout the rules, including civic penalties of up to £30,000 and new powers to ban the most serious offenders.  

“Local authorities can also introduce selective licensing of private landlords to target serious local problems. The London Borough of Newham has submitted their proposal for a licensing scheme for all private landlords in the borough and we’ll make a decision in due course.”

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