Letting agents in one of London’s poorest boroughs face on-the-spot fines of up to £30,000 and will be forced to repay rents to tenants if they fail to manage properties to the required standards, it has been announced.
The London Borough of Hackney, which is the 11th most deprived borough in England but famed for its Hackney Empire theatre and hipster areas such as Stoke Newington, says it will fine agents and landlords who fail to comply with council instructions to make improvements to properties, let overcrowded properties or fail to meet licensing conditions.
The borough says it has introduced the civil penalties so that it can take “immediate action” against agents rather than engaging in lengthy court proceedings.
Some 34,000 properties are rented privately in Hackney, a third of all households, and rents have increased by 20% over the past five years – a two bedroom apartment in the borough can cost £2,000 a month to rent.
“While we’ll still prosecute the most serious offenders, these new fines will give us the powers we need to quickly punish the minority of rogue landlords out to exploit tenants where it hurts – in their pocket,” says Councillor Sem Moema (pictured left).
Despite the high prices, two thirds of renters canvassed during research into the local private rented sector by the borough said repairs were not being done when needed, and that one in five HMOs contained serious hazards or were in disrepair.
The new fines are part of the boroughs ongoing Better Renting Campaign, which may soon include a borough-wide mandatory licensing system for all HMOs, and a blanket selective licensing scheme within its three poorest wards, following a consultation on the measures due to end in December.
The borough recently also introduced a voluntary lettings fees ban across the borough, although so far only two agents have signed up – Margo & Co and Julian Reid.