A managing agent who used ‘ghost tenants’ as a front so that she could cram 16 people into one overcrowded house has been hit with a £26,000 fine.
Waltham Forest council had received an application to register the property in London E17 as a single-family dwelling. However, suspicious officers discovered it was a House in Multiple Occupation occupied by up to 16 unrelated tenants.
Investigating officers found the ‘ghost tenants’ were not living at the property at all and were instead a front for a rent-to-rent scam with the property occupied by a large number of tenants at high rents.
In addition to the overcrowding, council officers discovered serious defects to the fire alarm system which could have endangered the lives of tenants.
Viktoriia Stroieva, director of Ilford property management agency Maxvik Ltd, received the rent payments from those living at the property and was fined under powers granted to councils under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Initially Stroieva appealed the penalties, but withdrew the appeal before the scheduled tribunal hearing and has agreed to pay a £26,000 fine for breaches of licensing and housing management laws.
Additionally Edzus Eisaks of London E11 has now been convicted of providing false information to officers investigating this case and received a fine of £500 on top of costs of £3,000 for his part in the scam.
A council spokeswoman says: “Everyone needs a decent roof over their head. However, there are people who choose to exploit that need for their own personal profit and greed.
“In this case, a property that could have provided a wonderful home for a young family was instead used to pack in 16 unrelated people, all of whom had to share woefully insufficient bathroom and kitchen facilities while the property’s fire alarm system fell into disrepair.
“The council’s property licensing scheme protects residents from those unscrupulous landlords and letting agents who care more about profits than the safety and security of their tenants. Officers work hard carrying out proactive checks to protect people from this very type of exploitation.”