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Islington landlords fined £110,500 after housing tenants in dangerous and overcrowded conditions

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - Islington Council

Two landlords have been fined a total of £110,500 after being convicted of managing Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) with dangerous and sub-standard conditions, in a successful prosecution by Islington Council.      

Environmental Health Officers discovered a total of 35 breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations at three properties in Islington. Tenants at the properties were found to be at risk from serious fire safety hazards, overcrowding and disrepair. 

The case displays the council’s commitment to tackling rogue landlords and ensuring everyone in the borough has a safe, secure place to call home. 

35 people found living in three two-bedroom flats

At one of the properties, a converted semi-detached Victorian home in Grosvenor Avenue, council officers found 35 people living in three two-bedroom flats, with up to five or six people having to sleep in the same rooms.       

Islington Council landlord prosecution 2020

In addition, the building was found to have no working fire alarm system, room partitions that were not fire resistant, and fire risks including dangerous electrics. Occupants of the property did not have tenancy agreements, and paid rent in cash.      

Neighbours contacted the Environmental Health team at Islington Council after frequent disturbances at the property. After inspecting the Victorian home, officers later discovered that tenants that had been living there had been moved to two other properties on Seven Sisters Road.

This meant that, once again, tenants were left in overcrowded rooms where fire safety was compromised. Again, they did not have tenancy agreements and paid rent in cash.       

Islington Council landlord prosecution 2020

Landlord Arun Bajaj, 60, who lives in Coventry, West Midlands, was found guilty of 15 offences in relation to the management of the two properties in Seven Sisters Road. He and his family owned all three of the properties. 

Meanwhile co-defendant Antonio Ferraiuolo, 57, from North London, was found guilty of 35 offences in relation to the letting of the Grosvenor Avenue property and his management of the two properties in Seven Sisters Road. Ferraiuolo was subletting the Grosvenor Avenue property and was Bajaj’s manager at the Seven Sisters Road properties.    

At a sentencing hearing at Reading Crown Court in August, Bajaj was handed a fine of £100,000, while Ferraiuolo was fined £10,500. In addition, Bajaj was ordered to pay £20,000 costs.      

In sentencing them, His Honour (HH) Judge Clarke QC highlighted the serious overcrowding at the properties in Grosvenor Avenue and Seven Sisters Road, caused by Ferraiuolo, who had put up partitions to create additional, smaller rooms and then filled them with bunk beds.       

HH Judge Clarke added that Bajaj had turned a blind eye to the situation, being content to accept the rents from the properties.      

The judge described Ferraiuolo as “calculatedly criminal” and said he placed the occupants of the properties “in very serious danger and criminally improper conditions”. HH Judge Clarke added that Bajaj permitted the properties to be “exploited” and “fall into dangerous disrepair”.       

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, said:

Islington Council is on the side of private renters across our borough and we are determined to ensure that each and every person that lives in the borough has a decent, safe and secure property to call home.

This case shows that, where landlords and managers put their tenants at risk and provide substandard conditions, they will be held to account by the council and by the courts.

We are pleased that these two defendants have been brought to justice and handed suitable fines for their offences."

Islington Council has agreed in principle to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme that will extend licensing to all HMOs in the borough. The start date is still to be confirmed.

A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the London Borough of Islington is available here.

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