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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Trio of lettings agencies fined in overcrowding and sub-letting scandal

Three agencies have been heavily fined after a property in London was being used for multiple occupation with 11 people living in a three-bedroom house.

Rockpole Ltd, Woodlands Ltd and Station Estates were all found guilty of failing to licence a House in Multiple Occupation that was severely over-crowded and unlicensed.

Barking and Dagenham council originally sent someone to a street in the borough - Fanshawe Avenue - to visit another property for a compliance inspection back in February 2017 but it was during this visit that the overcrowded property came to their attention.

Looking from outside the property, the housing officers noticed a bed in the front room and five bins that were filled with rubbish. After knocking at the door, they were greeted by a woman who was unable to communicate with them.

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 pcm.

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 managing agents increased the rent to £2,000 which was paid in cash by the tenants.

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

A legal case was put together by Barking and Dagenham council and all the managing agents were summoned to appear at Romford County Court last October; the case was then referred to Romford Magistrates Court where all three have now been convicted of failing to license an HMO under section 72 of the Housing Act 2004. 

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

A spokeswoman for the council says: “We will not tolerate any estate agents who are trying to find a loophole through sub-letting a property without informing the landlord.

“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.”

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    Heavily fined? £2k - thats it? They made more than that a month - until these fines/penalties get serious enough to actually hurt then flaunting the law pays so the unscrupulous will do so. They should also have been forced to open up their books and have all their other properties automatically inspected.

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