Tougher action needed to stop landlord scams

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[from Hornsey and Crouch End Journal]

Tougher action needed to stop landlord scams

nlnews@archant.co.uk
09 July 2008

RESIDENTS are urging Haringey Council to appoint a new chief of housing to clamp down on dodgy landlords who put the lives of tenants and neighbours in danger.

Some landlords are risking huge fires by wiring electricity supplies directly to the mains rather than through a meter.

Others invite burglars with poor security and ignore legal requirements to apply for planning permission and comply with building regulations, it is claimed.

The concern is over houses of multiple occupation – or HMOs – where, generally, bedsits and flats share a single main entrance in a converted house.

Ian Sygrave, chairman of the Harringay Ladder Community Safety Partnership, says Haringey needs a “HMO tsar” to safeguard tenants and co-ordinate different departments.

Haringey has seen ever greater numbers of HMO conversions in recent years. But the council has no idea how many there are, as dishonest landlords can simply avoid applying for HMO licences and for planning permission for the conversion work.

Mr Sygrave says the numbers of HMOs in Haringey are subject to “wild estimates” at best.

During a police operation last month in Harringay and St Ann’s wards, police and electricity teams disconnected 15 premises using illegal electricity and recovered 14 stolen electric meters. A further four premises had an illegal gas supply, and four stolen gas meters were recovered.

Haringey Council discovered 13 illegally converted HMOs in the same operation.

But Hugh Flouch, who runs the community website Harringay Online, and lives in Hewitt Road, said there seemed little co-ordination between departments, with the authority still “placing people into illegally converted HMOs”.

Around 180 HMO licences have been granted in Haringey since 2006, and six refused.

Councillor John Bevan, cabinet member for housing, said: “Residents are right to say that we need a very considered and co-ordinated approach to deal with some of the problems that are arising from HMOs and changes of use, such as preserving the character or neighbourhoods, protecting tenants and tackling associated anti-social behaviour.

“We will need the continuing help of residents in identifying rogue landlords or owners who are converting properties without permission.”

To report a suspected non-licensed HMO call 020 8489 5230/5240 or illegal change of use by calling 020 8489 5508.

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