|Councillor Jackie Smith|
Cabinet Member for
by our Correspondent | Greenwich
Two more local landlords have been successfully prosecuted by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Rogue Landlord Team. They now face combined fines and costs of more than £7000 for letting out dangerous properties, and failing to comply with previous enforcement action. Both cases were held at Bexley Magistrates Court this week, (Monday July 27), and follow successful convictions against two other landlords last month.
The Royal Borough set up its Rogue Landlord Team in 2013 to drive up standards in private rented properties, and take strong enforcement action against landlords who fail to manage their property safely and responsibly.
Dangerous fire risk in Plumstead
In the first case local landlord Mr Rafik Lunat was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1000 costs and a victim surcharge of £200 for allowing a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) to be used when he knew that the Royal Borough had placed an Emergency Prohibition Order on it to protect the safety of the tenants.
Mr Lunat’s property is a 5 bedroom Victorian terraced property on Saunders Road in Plumstead. As part of the enforcement programme the Team arranged for a planned inspection of the property in September 2014, giving advance notice to Mr Lunat and the tenants. When the Royal Borough team arrived they were only able to gain access to shared areas. As a full inspection could not be carried out a warrant of entry was later successfully obtained from the magistrates’ court.
This later inspection revealed that there were bedsit style living units in the property with tenants sharing facilities. Fire doors had not been correctly fitted as there were large gaps between the frames and the wall, so tenants would not have the proper protection if there was a fire.
There was a shared kitchen on the first floor and a 2 bedroom flat. The living room at the flat was being used as a bedroom, and as this was behind the kitchen, the only means of escape for this tenant was through the kitchen.
The lack of a safe fire escape route and the serious risk of harm to tenants led to the team to serve an Emergency Prohibition Order (EPO) to legally stop the use of the dangerous bedroom immediately.
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Failure to comply with an EPO is a legal offence, and despite assurances that the room would no longer be used as a bedroom, an unannounced visit showed that the room was still being used.
The landlord had also taken down a wall in the property to make the prohibited room even larger. Throughout this period the landlord continually failed to make the necessary changes to address the serious fire safety risks and make the property safe for tenants.
Further fire risks in Eltham Property
Mr Zhiyong Wu, the defendant in the second case was given 14 days to pay a fine of £3000, Royal Borough costs of £590 and a victim surcharge of £300 for failing to comply with the requirements of an Improvement Notice served by the Team
This Eltham property was a two storey semi-detached house being let as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and was originally inspected by the team in April 2014.
The Team found that the property on Eltham Palace Road lacked a fire alarm system, fire doors and fire-fighting equipment. There were 5 separate households letting parts of the property. There were four bedrooms on the first floor and another bedroom on a ground floor side extension. There was one communal bathroom on the 1st floor and a shower and wc on the ground floor.
Due to the lack of fire protection for the number of households living there an Improvement Notice was served requiring the landlord to fit fire doors throughout, install an automatic fire detection system, a fire extinguisher and fire blanket.
Despite giving Mr Wu until December 2014 to carry out the improvement works they were not done and it was only recently that the full range of required safety improvements were eventually made.
The court took into account the length of time taken by Mr Wu to take any action when deciding on the level of fine.
Councillor Jackie Smith, Royal Greenwich Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment said: “I hope that these cases show landlords and their tenants that we are fully committed to driving up standards in the private rented sector. It is not acceptable for landlords to continue to collect rents whist at the same time completely failing to comply with their legal responsibilities to protect tenants from serious harm."
“We offer private landlords comprehensive advice and guidance to ensure that they know how to stay on the right side of the law, so there can be no excuse to continually ignore requests which are only in place to keep people safe."
“It’s reassuring to know that the Eltham property now has the fire safety measures in place, and I’m pleased that the court has noted the unnecessarily long time it’s taken for these improvements to be made when considering its sentence.”
London Fire Brigade’s Borough Commander for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Matt Herrington added: "Inadequate fire detection, poor means of escape and badly fitted fire doors meant that both of these premises were potential death traps"
“We work closely with the council to ensure that the borough’s private landlords meet their fire safety responsibilities and the fines handed down by magistrates in these cases should serve as a stark warning to other landlords who put the lives of their tenants at risk in this way.”
Private landlords are welcome to also contact the team for advice about licensing requirements, maintaining safe standards and good management in their properties.
Anyone who has concerns about unsafe or badly managed privately rented properties can contact the Rogue Landlords team on: 020 8921 8157