One of London’s largest councils has revealed that lettings agencies rather than landlords have born the brunt of its clampdown on illegal practices within the private rented sector.
Tower Hamlets says that of the £360,000 levied by its prosecutions during the past three years, £225,000 come from letting agents but just £76,661 came from landlords.
The council brought 57 successful prosecutions of which 25 were landlords including 13 who were given a criminal caution and 12 who received civil penalties.
For both letting agencies and landlords, this included penalties for renting out unlicenced properties, failing to carry out required improvements and charging hidden fees.
The largest fine was £167,000, given to local agency Sterling De Vere for giving false information to clients. The estate agent was also successfully prosecuted for two other offences under the Housing Act 2004 and fined £16,200.
The council’s recently-renewed Selective Licensing Scheme came into force on 1st October for another five years, covering all rented properties within the Weavers, Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Banglatown areas.
Rent repayment orders
On top of the fines, the council says it also helped tenants reclaim £360,000 via rent repayment orders over the past 12 months.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, says: “With one third of properties in Tower Hamlets on the private market we’re taking steps to protect renters’ rights. We are using our enforcement powers to clamp down on landlords who are putting profits above their tenants.”
Councillor Danny Hassell (pictured), Cabinet Member for Housing, says: The council operates a Mandatory Licensing Scheme (for properties with five renters or more), an Additional Licensing Scheme (three or more renters) and a Selective Licensing Scheme.