Five managing agents convicted of licensing offences in two London Boroughs

Thursday, July 19th, 2018 - Camden and Barking & Dagenham Councils

The importance of landlords employing reputable managing agents has been made crystal clear in the latest batch of housing prosecutions.

In the first case, three managing agents who implemented a ‘Rent to Rent’ arrangement without the landlords consent have been fined after 11 people were found living in a three-bedroom house in Barking.

Rockpole Ltd, Woodlands Ltd and Station Estates were all found guilty of failing to license the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Fanshaw Avenue.

Barking and Dagenham Council originally sent someone to visit another property for a compliance inspection back in February 2017. It was during this visit that the property managed by the defendants came to the officers’ attention.

Looking from outside, the officer noticed a bed in the front room and five bins that were filled with rubbish.

Council Enforcement officers later returned to visit the property and discovered five bedrooms with six double beds and two single beds. There was only one bathroom and the first-floor front bedroom had severe mould due to lack of ventilation and the number of occupants living there.

After researching the property, officers found the landlord spent the majority of the time travelling away on business and recruited a managing agent – Rockpole in October 2016 to rent out the property for £1,200 a month.

The landlord was unaware that Rockpole had signed an agreement with Woodlands to sub-let the property and then did a further sub-let with Station Estates to increase the number of tenants living in the property.

The landlord had no knowledge there were another two managing agents involved and they were all taking a share of money from the property.

All three managing agents were summoned to appear in Court on 22 October 2017 where they pleaded not guilty. At the trial on 20 and 21 June 2018, all three were convicted of failing to license an HMO under section 72 of the Housing Act 2004.

Rockpole were fined £2,500 while Woodlands and Station Estates were both ordered to pay £2,000.

Councillor Margaret Mullane, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety at Barking & Dagenham Council said:

We will not tolerate any estate agents who are trying to find a loophole through subletting a property without informing the landlord.

The actions of such agents place an extra burden on law-abiding citizens, and we will take enforcement action against such practices in order to protect residents.

The conviction of these three managing agents sends out a strong warning that we will take the strongest possible action and bring them to justice.

It should also act as a warning to all landlords that they need to make sure all relevant research has been carried out before committing to an estate agent.

Camden managing agents ordered to pay over £40,000

Meanwhile, on 13 July 2018 at Highbury Magistrates Court, two managing agents were ordered to pay fines, costs and victim surcharges of over £42,000 after being found guilty of managing three unsafe flats that required a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence but were not licensed.

The London Borough of Camden successfully prosecuted the managing agent ‘Leycam Limited’, and the letting agent ‘Citydeal Estates (London) Limited’ for 12 charges arising from offences relating to the failure to licence as HMOs three flats in the same building at Fortess Road, London and 9 other offences under the HMO Management regulations relating to the condition of the flats.

Together they received a fine of £25,050 for failing to have a licence and Leycam Limited received £6,975 for breaching regulations.

Council officers were first alerted to the properties in the summer of 2017 when tenants complained about a rat infestation and poor housing conditions, including rotting windows, dampness and fire safety issues. The tenants had to place saucepans within a bedroom of one of the flats to catch leaking bathwater.

Despite the agents being aware of the council’s HMO Licensing scheme, they ignored tenant requests for issues to be resolved. Citydeal Estates (London) Limited had argued that they were not responsible as they only received the tenancy deposits and the first month’s rent however Judge Newton ruled they were managing the property.

Councillor Meric Apak, Cabinet Member for Better Homes, Camden Council said:

We will investigate all landlords who we suspect have allowed the condition of their properties to fall below the required standards and if evidence proves they have been negligent, we will respond in the strongest possible terms, including with legal action.

We want to work with landlords to help them manage their homes, protect tenants’ rights and ensure that they have safe and accessible accommodation.

London Property Licensing has published a free guide to choosing a letting agent, available here

Readers can also search for reputable agents belonging to NALS, SAFEagent and other companies in our Landlord Suppliers Directory here.

For all the latest news and events, you can sign up for the free London Property Licensing newsletter here.