We’re constantly hearing stories of rogue landlords in the news, but just how bad has the private rental sector become?
While the majority of landlords act within the law, there are a few that exploit the generation trapped in renting and make money while putting tenants in danger.
In the last two years, over 3,000 landlords have faced enforcement action and prosecution, according to the Government. However, campaigners believe there are many more landlords breaking the law and either escaping justice or being let off with too little sanctions.
Homelessness charity Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb, insists that it is too easy for rogue landlords to take advantage of renters.
He says: “Every day we hear from families in homes that put their health at risk or are downright dangerous. Although it’s promising to see the Government taking steps to address the issue, they need to go further – from introducing a register of landlords, to further equipping local authorities with the resources to crack down on rogue landlords for good.”1
Data released this summer following a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice, reveals that there were just 2,006 convictions of criminal landlords between 2006-14. Fines totalled £3m, less than £1,500 per conviction.
Lobby group Generation Rent claims that rogue landlords earn £5 billion in rent per year.
The Government is pushing new measures that will be enforced in the coming months to make it easier for local councils to bring criminal landlords to justice.
Ministers have proposed an extension to current House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing, including a minimum bedroom size to stop landlords dividing properties up until tiny homes. The Government has also announced a £5m fund for the worst affected councils to tackle the issue. It will focus on combating beds in sheds, by providing the means for more raids and demolishment of illegal outbuildings.
Furthermore, new rules set out in the Housing and Planning Bill, currently going through Parliament, will create a database of landlords and letting agents that have been convicted of certain offences, banning orders for the most serious offenders, new civil penalties of up to £5,000 for breaches, and a stricter fit and proper persons test for landlords.
The general public will not be able to access the new database, but local authorities and central Government will use it. The Department for Communities and Local Government does not have a list of rogue landlords, but individual councils often release details of cases. Here are some of the worst offenders in recent months:
Andreas Stavrou Antoniades
Antoniades, 74, illegally converted a property near Finsbury Park, north London, into flats. On 21st October, he was ordered to pay a £20,000 fine – the maximum magistrates could impose – plus £1,500 in costs and charges, brought by Haringey Council. He must also pay for the building to be converted into three more spacious flats that meet council guidelines.
Tottenham Magistrates’ Court heard that Antoniades ignored several requests from council enforcement officers to stop using the property as separate flats and made around £9,000 per month from renting them out. He had already been found guilty of a similar offence three years ago, when he was issued a £13,500 fine.
Antoniades, who also has other rental properties, has defended his decision to convert the house into nine flats: “In this borough, there are an awful lot of single people who prefer to have their own self-contained little studio.”
He says landlords “are not charitable organisations – they have to make a profit out of it”, adding that with lots of costs and pressures, the only way to make money “is to do the smaller units, which unfortunately the council doesn’t like”.
He also states that he does not receive £9,000 a month: “You have vacant periods [and] you lose a lot of money from bad debts. They don’t take into account that.”1
Ippolito, from Ayr, western Scotland, has been accused by his local council of managing “houses of horror” and choosing “to put profit above anything else”.
Innumerable hazards were identified at his properties, including water coming through a light socket, exposed electrics and an open trench around one home.
On 2nd March, South Ayrshire Council banned Ippolito, 56, from operating as a landlord. This was the first time the authority had taken this kind of action. He has three convictions for operating HMOs without a license.
One of his flats in Ayr was occupied by a father of a toddler, who lived with him for part of the week. It had water coming through a light socket and a first floor bedroom door lead to a sheer drop down to ground level. In another property, there were bars on the windows of the child’s bedroom and bathroom, which could have put lives at risk. There was also evidence of a past fire in the property, as soot covered the boiler.
The council had been battling with Ippolito for years over the state of his properties, by at Ayr Sheriff Court, he found that he had exhausted his right of appeal and agreed not to pursue any further action. It is now a criminal offence for him to operate as a landlord.
Stanley John Rodgers
In 2004, Rodgers was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for five years after the death of two of his former tenants, both teenagers, from carbon monoxide poisoning.
However, he was allowed to continue operating as a landlord, but was back in court this year after letting a property that was so dangerous his local council shut down the home; the rear exit door of the property was locked with no key available and the electrics were hazardous. Five people lived in the property, including a pregnant lady.
In August, Rodgers, 74, appeared at Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court, where he pleaded guilty to various offences and was fined £13,333. He was ordered to pay costs of £2,427 and a £120 victim surcharge.
Zuo Jun He
Jun He made over £26,000 per year by renting out a flat above a restaurant in Watford to 12 tenants – the property was meant for five. He was fined £30,000 plus £5,476 in costs after pleading guilty to overcrowding.
Some of the bedrooms were so small they were classed as storerooms. Council officers said they were informed that Jun He cleared the property before inspections, to make it seem like there were fewer people living there. When the inspectors left, he moved the tenants back in or found new ones.
The tenants shared one small kitchen, which was described as filthy, and the fire exit was obstructed. However, the council ruled that Jun He could remain a landlord, but he will not be able to gain a HMO license in the future. He has since evicted all of the tenants.
Panayi rents out 180 properties, mostly on Caledonian Road near King’s Cross, north London. He has been ordered to repay £70,000 in rent under the Proceeds of Crime Act, after he pleaded guilty to letting an unlicensed basement for £975 per month, despite an earlier council ruling that it was “an unsatisfactory and substandard unit of residential accommodation” with “inadequate light and outlook and poor living environment”.
He was also fined £2,000 and issued costs of £15,900 at Blackfriars Crown Court. The case was brought by Islington Council, which sought a confiscation order of £103,000, equivalent to 14 years worth of rent. It was negotiated down to £70,000.
Last year’s accounts for Panayi’s company, Ploughcane, reveal net assets of £17m and a 2013 turnover of £2.7m, of which £2.3m was profit.
Panayi was included in a 2012 BBC documentary about the area, in which he boasted of breaching planning rules and “milking”1 his properties.
Once named the UK’s worst landlord, Goremsandu has been convicted seven times for housing offences and fined a total of £16,565.
She owns numerous rental properties in Haringey and the local council estimates her rental income at £188,000 per year, including housing benefit payments.
The council states it has taken action against her “for a range of issues relating to disrepair and the poor state of properties she rents out”.
In 2014, she was prosecuted for putting renters at risk by covering a warning light on a faulty fire alarm in a property converted into seven flats in Tottenham.
In 2012, she was convicted for leaving tenants without heating for prolonged periods of time during the winter. In the same year, a conviction was upheld against her at a crown court for renting out a damp house for over a year.
Hussein let a house converted into flats that had no working fire alarm, no firefighting equipment, no emergency lighting and inadequate fire escape routes, “placing tenants at risk of serious injury or death”1, claimed Reading Borough Council.
In September, Hussein was jailed for four months after pleading guilty to 12 offences relating to fire safety. He was also ordered to pay £9,876 in costs.
It is vital for all landlords to keep up to date with new laws and regulations, to avoid letting out an illegal rental property. Head over to LandlordNews.co.uk for the latest updates.