Renting out illegal micro flats in an unlicensed West Hampstead HMO results in fines totalling £130,000
Camden Council’s investigations have helped to open a ‘Pandora’s box’ by exposing an illegally-run, poorly converted house in multiple occupation.
The unlicensed house in multiple occupation in Pandora Road, West Hampstead first came to light in 2017 following complaints about rubbish outside the property. It was found that the property had been badly converted into 16 flats. Tenants had tenancy agreements with the three letting agent companies and had paid rent to them for rooms at the property.
According to the council, the property is a house in multiple occupation because the building had been converted into self-contained flats that did not comply with building regulations when converted and still did not do so, and the flats were being rented out to tenants rather than being owner occupied.
Camden Council served civil financial penalties on Grosvenor Property Investment London Ltd in 2017 over poor management relating to the fire alarm and failure to license the property as a house in multiple occupation.
Despite this, no valid licence application was made and the property remained unlicensed when officers visited again in January 2019.
Multiple prohibition orders were also served as many of the flats were found to be so small they posed a hazard for occupiers.
A large amount of housing benefit was also been paid to the tenants, who then paid this to the landlord. Camden Council has since made Rent Repayment Order applications to reclaim the housing benefit under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
On Thursday 4 July 2019, Grosvenor Property Investment London Ltd, Knightsbridge Properties London Ltd, Business Home Ltd and their directors were fined a total of £130,000 and ordered to pay Camden Council’s legal costs at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on
In total, £95,000 in fines were given for failure to license the property, £25,000 for the failure to respond to statutory notices requiring information and £10,000 for the re-letting of a tiny flat in contravention of a prohibition order.
Photo: toilet cistern installed in the entrance hallway, forming the fire escape route
Further research by London Property Licensing has found no accounts have been submitted for Grosvenor Property Investment London Ltd since 2016 and there is a proposal to strike off the company although the action has been temporarily suspended.
No accounts have also been submitted for Business Home Ltd since 2017 and there is a proposal to strike off the company although the action has been temporarily suspended.
Councillor Meric Apak, Cabinet Member for Better Homes at Camden Council, said:
“We discovered a flat conversion completed so badly that a flat had its WC cistern out in the communal corridor! The flat was so narrow that you could touch both walls when you were in the middle of it, and tenants were being plagued by a faulty alarm.
“Once again this proves why regulation of homes in multiple occupation is necessary. If you are running a house in multiple occupation in Camden you must get it licensed to prove you are a fit and proper landlord committed to keeping the property in a fit state for tenants. We will not hesitate to step in to protect tenants’ rights.“
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