‘Tenants in danger as landlords ignore safety rules’

London tenants’ lives are being put at risk by rogue landlords who fail to make even the most basic safety checks before letting homes, according to property experts who are calling for tighter regulation of the rental sector.
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Harpal Singh, 53, is serving 26 weeks after illegally installing a boiler at a property he owns in Tottenham Hale, and then attempting to fix it himself when it began leaking.

Westminster Magistrates Court heard that his tenants lived with the potentially lethal boiler for four months, between January and May, before alerting National Grid which immediately disconnected the boiler. He was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive, and was also ordered to pay £1,852 in costs.

Meanwhile Wayne Chodosh has been fined £12,520 at Tottenham Magistrates Court for operating an unlicensed home in multiple occupation in Muswell Hill, letting the property out to nine separate tenants. In January 2011 the London Fire Brigade was called to the house amid reports that a fire had broken out. Although the call turned out to be a false alarm firefighters discovered there were no adequate fire doors, alarms or emergency lighting in the property.

According to the latest figures more than half of all Londoners live in rented property and councils are beginning to take action to protect them. Newham Council already operates a licensing system for landlords in the borough and Waltham Forest plans to follow suit next year.

According to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) the most common problems found in rented homes are damp and mould, unsafe wiring, broken windows, dangerously overgrown and dilapidated gardens, faulty boilers and a lack of smoke alarms.

Patricia Barber, chairwoman of the AIIC, said that most letting agents vet the properties they offer and the main problems occur when landlords rent directly to tenants. “They can just slip under the net,” she said. “Why do the tenants put up with it? If a property is cheap it is amazing what people will put up with and it may be that within their budget they don’t have a lot of choice – they certainly can’t afford to buy homes.”

According to LSL Property Services the average rent in London now stands at £1,156, up 4.9 per cent in the last year, by far the highest level in the UK. However property prices rose 9.3 per cent in the same period, to an average £393,462.

Barber would like to see a licensing system for all rented property, so that landlords had to prove their property was safe and in decent condition before being allowed to rent it out. “Even if a home is not unsafe what happens is that people have a look around and it seems OK – then something breaks down and they end up without heating and hot water for three months,” she said.

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