Unlicensed property landlords in hot water

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Rogue landlords in Croydon who rent out unlicensed properties face a crackdown by council officers preparing to launch prosecutions against the owners of around 30 properties.

Other boroughs are also stepping up the pressure on landlords after a change in the law in October 2015, requiring landlords who rent out private properties to apply for a licence.

2.5 million Londoners rent their homes from private landlords making it important for residents to ensure that the landlord has a private rented property licence before moving in.

But the plight of Goldsmiths student Melissa Fernando, who was asked to vacate her rented room with less than twenty hours notice by an unlicensed landlord, illustrates the problems which tenants can encounter, and also underlines that council get-tough policies across the capital are having an impact.

Fernando moved into a property in East Ham on December 30, paying £300 per month in rent. Suddenly she was ordered to move out by her landlord who told her that “council people have begun their rounds of checking”.

She added: “I was suddenly told at about 11pm to move out from my room by 3pm the next day. I’m clueless and shocked to find out that my landlord has no licence for renting out his rooms and I don’t know how can I find a place to move in within 16 hours.”

It was only then that she realised she had rented the place from a rogue landlord and there was no rental contract.

Croydon is one borough which has been working hard to compel landlords to apply to the council for a Croydon private rented property licence. This became a legal requirement from October 1 2015.

Council spokesperson Susie Rundle said: “The estimated number of privately rented properties in Croydon itself is 32,000, so our officers are working to track down un-licenced properties and ensure that those landlords are required to be licenced to submit applications or face legal action.”

According to Rundle, the licensing scheme has been running for just over a year and they have almost 28,000 properties licenced.

The council has not yet taken any prosecutions against landlords for failing to produce a licence but they are in the process of finalising investigations into approximately 30 properties.

Tower Hamlets council decided to set up a licensing scheme for some parts of the borough last February. Since October all privately rented property in the areas of Whitechapel, Weavers, Spitalfields and Bangla town needs to be licensed.

The council is said to be reviewing its approach to how it works with the private sector as part of the development of the new Housing Strategy. Residents can go to the local council’s website and check whether their landlord is registered online and has a licence.

In Lewisham the draft Lewisham Housing Strategy 2015-2020 focuses on how to tackle the challenging housing problems in the area with a greater emphasis on regulating and reducing the dominance of the Private Rented Sector.

In Hackney a “Housing Quality Network” 2014 survey found that although there are many decent landlords and letting agents who operate to high professional standards, there are also those who are unaware of their responsibilities.

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