Tag Archives: private renters

TH Renters to send council list of letting agents not displaying fees as law requires

agent protest wideshot

Clarke & Lloyds, off Brick Lane, doesn’t display its fees

TH Renters is to send TH Council a list of 35 letting agents not displaying their fees online, as the law requires, after completing a research programme with Generation Rent.

The agents will be subject to a £5,000 fine if the council pursues them. From May last year agents are obliged to clearly display their fees both online and in their offices so potential tenants know in advance what they can expect to pay.

Previously agents that hid charges could only be named and shamed by the Advertisement Standards Authority. The Government said the new law will “require letting agents to publish a full tariff of their fees both on their websites and prominently in their offices. Anyone who does not comply with these new rules will face a fine.”

35 agents storyHowever, ten months later many are still not doing so either through ignorance or maybe they have something to hide. Our research found agents charging fees of up to £900 for two people to rent a property and up to £762 for someone renting alone. It’s possible some of the 35, which failed to publish their fees, are charging even more.

On Saturday, 20th Feb, TH Renters paid a visit to some of the guilty agents to hand them a mock fine before protesting outside and handing out leaflets to passers-by.

We hope renters will demand to see agents’ fees up front and inform us or the council where they’re not.

£5000 fine certificate

TH Renters kindly warned a few TH letting agents about the law before shopping them to the council on Monday

 

 

TH Council agrees to license private landlords in three wards

TH Council agreed to implement a landlord licensing scheme in three wards at its cabinet meeting last night.

All private landlords in Whitechapel, Weavers and Spitalfields and Banglatown – based on their pre-May boundaries – will be obliged to be licensed and meet its conditions from – it’s hoped – October.

The annual fee and exact conditions that must be met are yet to be agreed.

Licensing is aimed at improving the conditions of private rented properties, their management and to tackle so-called anti-social behaviour.

In Newham it has been successfully implemented since January 2013 and the borough now prosecutes more landlords than the rest of London combined.

Unfortunately the scheme is only being implemented in three Tower Hamlets wards after the Coalition government limited Selective licensing to a maximum 20% of a borough shortly before the election last year after intense lobbying by the National Landlords Association. Permission must be sought from the Department for Communities and Local Government before extending the scheme to become borough-wide, but recently blocked Barking and Dagenham’s request to do so.

However, Additional licensing, which only covers houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) – as opposed to HMOs and single family households that Selective covers – is not restricted and the council agreed to look into consulting on implementing it once the government finishes its own consultations on extending mandatory licensing to a greater number of HMOs. Legislation already covers HMOs with five rooms, three or more floors, and two or more households.

However, if it decides to act, the government is expected to implement a diluted version of Additional licensing that would not, for example, cover flats.

The key protections that licensing offers tenants is that the license becomes invalid if any of the conditions are breached rendering the landlord liable to a fine of up to £20,000 and unable to issue a S21 eviction notice.

The decision comes more than six months after the consultation was completed last summer following mayoral elections and a change in administration.

The council said that one of its problems in dealing with the private rental sector is that it relies on tenants reporting poor conditions and reacting to them with limited resources.

Licensing puts the onus on landlords to meet certain conditions and face penalties if it breaks them.

Some of the conditions that must be met include: carrying out repairs, particularly to furniture, fittings and electrical appliances, fitting and maintaining working smoke alarms and having an up-to-date gas certificate. However, each tenant will also be obliged to provide a reference.

In its report to cabinet, the council stated it would also use licensing to identify landlords of the approximate 1,500 empty properties in the borough and encourage their owners to bring them back into use.

It also said it would employ additional staff for its under-resourced environmental health team to carry out house inspections.

New TH cabinet member for housing fluffs lines on new eviction law

licensing demo 5

A sneaky picture from inside the chamber. It wasn’t me.

TH Renter Michael James was left feeling angry and offended last night after asking TH Council’s new cabinet member for housing, Sirajul Islam, what the council can do to speed up property inspections to make use of the new law to prevent revenge evictions.

Michael’s landlord attempted to evict him three times last year after he reported dangerous conditions at the 19-apartment block he lives in and so fully appreciates the importance of the new law that came into effect in October.

However, instead of offering any assurances or asking for an explanation if he wasn’t aware of the new law, Sirajul simply repeated the answer he gave to Michael’s previous question on landlord licensing.

licensing demo 2TH Renters are concerned that the councillor responsible for protecting private renters from callous landlords doesn’t seem to be keeping abreast of new laws aimed at doing just that.

The new law states that a private tenant cannot be evicted from his or her home for six months after the council has carried out an inspection and issued an improvement notice to the landlord following a complaint about sub-standard conditions.

However, as Michael found out, it can take up to a year for the council to carry out an inspection and 18-months to issue an improvement notice. To be fair to the council it was not one property they had to inspect, but 19. They then have to compile a report before issuing the improvement notice.

licensing demo 6But the reality is that TH Council’s environmental health team – who carry out the inspections – is under-resourced and so they are unable to quickly respond to complaints meaning a landlord could evict a tenant who has complained before the council has inspected the property and issued an improvement notice.

Hence Michael’s question: “can the [cabinet member for housing] outline how he will speed up inspections and the issuing of improvement notices, so private renters can benefit from the new law that is supposed to prevent revenge evictions?”

The answer is clearly: “no he can’t.”

TH Council commits to Feb 2016 Licensing decision

licensing demo 1

TH Council said last night it would decide on whether to implement a landlord licensing scheme in February 2016, however it’s still not clear what scheme they plan to adopt and how effective it will be.

TH Renters has been calling for the introduction of licensing, which provides councils with the resources to inspect properties and prosecute landlords in breach of basic conditions, for years.

Newham has been successfully operating licensing since 2013 and prosecutes more landlords than the rest of London put together.

To be licensed landlords must also pass a fit-and-proper person test meaning those found guilty of housing law violations, fraud or sexual, violent or organised crimes would be banned from acting as a landlord and would have to transfer the management of their property to a reputable agent.

However, the concern is TH Council only plan to introduce Selective licensing, which can only be applied to 20% of a borough (after the coalition government changed the law in April) – unless the case can be proved to the secretary of state to make it borough-wide.

So TH Renters would like the Council to introduce Additional licensing, which has no restrictions and so can be borough-wide, alongside Selective – as they did in Newham.

Additional licensing requires every property let to mixed households (ie where everyone in the property is not related, also know as ‘houses of multiple occupation’ or HMO) must be licensed.

The net result being that a far higher percentage of private landlords would be licensed than would be if only Selective was introduced to 20% of the borough.

The Feb 2016 announcement was made after TH Renter Michael James asked a question to new cabinet member for housing Sirajul Islam at Wednesday’s full council meeting.

Private tenant beats eviction for third time after tribunal cuts £450 rent-rise to £2.50

Michael finally has a reason to smile

Michael finally has a reason to smile

A private tenant who fought off two retaliatory evictions before being hit with a 70% rent rise was celebrating today after a rent assessment tribunal cut the proposed £450 increase to £2.50.

Michael James, who has lived in his Shadwell apartment for 25-years, has been battling to remain in his home since reporting dangerous conditions to the council in late 2013 after the landlord ignored his concerns.

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MPs to vote on revenge evictions this Friday: Is yours?

UPDATE (27/11/14): More good news – Rushanara Ali contacted us last night to say she would be voting in favour of the bill. Thanks to everyone who contacted their MPs.

UPDATE (26/11/14): Meg Hillier tonight said she would be voting in favour of the Tenancies (Reform) Bill.

This Friday MPs have the opportunity to stop private landlords from evicting tenants for requesting essential repairs to their home to make them safe.

While the Tenancies (Reform) Bill is no catch-all solution to ending retaliatory evictions it will prevent landlords from evicting tenants for six months after the request or complaint has been made, highlight the matter to the council and so, theoretically, see that the work is done.

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Next Private Renters Meeting this Tuesday, 26 Aug, at Unite Community Centre, Shadwell

Entrance for the Unite Community Centre is through the gate to the right of the main entrance and down the stairs

Entrance for the Unite Community Centre is through the gate to the right of the main entrance and down the stairs

Please join us for our next THPR meeting whether you want to learn more about what we do, share a landlord problem or get involved with one of our ongoing campaigns. The meeting will be held on the lower ground floor of 236 Cable Street between 6.30 & 8pm.

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