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Rogue landlords who stuffed 31 people into four-bedroom Wembley house found guilty

Garden shed: The only woman at the address was housed in the shack (Brent Council)
Garden shed: The only woman at the address was housed in the shack (Brent Council)

A family of rogue landlords have been convicted of breaching landlord licensing rules after they were caught cramming 31 people into a four bedroom property in Wembley.

Mother and daughter Harsha and Chandani Shah, and Mrs Harsha Shah’s brother, Sanjay Shah, were caught following enforcement action taken by Brent Council at the property on Napier Road during a raid in July last year.

Officers found a woman  living in a lean-to shed in the back garden.  The shack had no lighting or heating and was made out of wood offcuts, pallets and tarpaulin.

Inside the house, officers found some residents hot-bunking with occupants sharing a single bed with night workers swapping sleeping shifts with those who worked during the day.

Four beds were discovered piled into the front room and three in each bedroom. The tenants are all migrants, who said they could not afford to live anywhere else. One of the residents, Bagharad, revealed he lived in the house on Napier Road because he worked as a carer for the elderly and was only paid £30 a day.

The family earned around £112,000 a year from the tenants and were found guilty of breaching landlord licensing rules.

Jaydipkumar Valand, who collected the rent for the Shah family, pleaded guilty at trial in December last year.

Judgement

Spencer Randolph, head of private housing services at Brent Council, said: “This judgement sends out a clear message that Brent has a zero tolerance policy towards landlords who break the law and exploit vulnerable tenants.

“The lean-to shack we found in the back garden of the property in July last year looked like something you would expect to find in a Hollywood depiction of a shanty town.

“We will prosecute any landlord or agent we find housing tenants in cramped or hazardous conditions.

“Brent’s aim is to help renters by ensuring decent living conditions within the borough.”

On Tuesday 23rd May, the judge at Willesden Magistrates Court said: “This trial has revealed how people desperate for accommodation in London can be exploited and have paid to live in grossly overcrowded, unhygienic and unsafe conditions.”

The judge also ordered the defendants to pay Brent Council £35,000 in costs. The four defendants will be sentenced at a crown court at a later date.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Majority of London renters spend over half of salary on rent

Most single tenants renting privately in London are now paying more than half of their monthly salary on average to rent a one-bedroom property.

Research undertaken by the property website Sellhousefast.uk which analysed the latest data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that the average rent for a one-bedroom property in London is now almost £1,330 per month.

Percentage of salary spent on rent by London borough
Percentage of salary spent on rent by London borough

Despite having the highest costs of any housing type, the private rented sector has the worst property standards. In February 2016, it was reported that 60% of London renters are forced to live in unacceptable conditions. Private renters are also one of the most deprived groups with almost 25% of households at risk of fuel poverty.

ONS data revealed that single tenants in 25 of London’s 32 boroughs are spending more than half of their monthly salary – after income and council tax deductions – on rent for a one-bedroom property.

Unsurprisingly, housing affordability is worst in prime areas of the capital, with those renting a one-bedroom property in Kensington and Chelsea paying  the equivalent of 85% of the average London monthly salary on rent.

The cheapest accommodation for single tenants was in the boroughs of Bromleywell and Havering with the average rental cost for a one-bedroom home coming in at 42% of monthly salary.

Robby Du Toit, managing director of Sell House Fast commented: “As demand has consistently exceeded supply over the last few years, Londoners have unfortunately been caught up in a very competitive property market where prices haven’t always reflected fair value. This notion is demonstrated through this research whereby private rental prices in London are certainly overstretching single tenants; to the extent they must sacrifice over half their monthly salary.

“For those single tenants with ambitions to climb up the property ladder – their intentions are painfully jeopardised, as they can’t set aside a sufficient amount each month to save up for a deposit or explore better alternatives. It’s not only distressing for them but worrying for the property market as a whole – where the ‘generation rent’ notion is truly continuing too spiral further.”

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Landlord investigated for banning “colored people” because they smell of curry says insurance needed to deal with curry smell in rented homes

Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES
Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES

One of Britain’s biggest landlords, Fergus Wilson,  under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for banning “colored people” whom he claims leave his properties “smelling of curry” is in the news once again.

Wilson has suggested a specialist insurance company should be set up to deal with cases where tenants leave homes smelling of curry. The property tycoon, who lives in Boughton Kent, is currently facing legal action from a public body after banning Indian and Pakistani tenants from renting his properties because he claimed they left a bad smell.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently applied for an injunction at Central London County Court against Wilson over his controversial lettings policy. Mr Wilson who denies accusations of racism, insists his decision is purely economical after spending thousands of pounds removing the smell of curry from one of his properties.

Speaking to Kent News, Wilson has called for an insurance policy to be in place to cover him in such situations in the future. “If someone punches a wall and leaves a dent, you can take a photograph to prove it,” he said.

“How do you prove there is a smell? It’s impossible to prove because they might have got so used to the smell that they don’t notice it.

“The thing is, a curry smell is not malicious damage – we are insured for someone smashing the house up but not for that.

“If they are cooking curry they are not doing it maliciously but they are ‘injuring’ the house. If the EHRC set up their own insurance company to underwrite claims there would be no problem. If that had been in place I would not have made those comments.

“These are all economic judgments. It costs as much for a new carpet as you are achieving in rent for six months.”

Battered wife ban

Wilson is no stranger to controversy. In January this year it emerged that he banned “battered wives” from his properties claiming he does not want to risk ex-husbands or boyfriends returning to destroy his houses.

Also included on the list of proscribed tenants were children under 18, single adults, battered wives, tenants without a rent guarantee, people on housing benefit, low income workers, zero hours workers, plumbers, smokers and pet owners.

Wilson, who at one point owned 1,000 homes in Maidstone and Ashford, was unrepentant when challenged about the latest ban.

“To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people.”

“It is a problem with certain types of coloured people — those who consume curry — it sticks to the carpet.

In the same year he sent eviction notices to over 200 of his tenants, many from low income backgrounds, claiming that he was “sending battered wives back to their partners to be beaten up again”. He was also convicted in the same year for assaulting an estate agent over a broken boiler which he denied, claiming that he was “too fat to punch anybody or even tie his own shoelaces”.

Wilson admits there was an element of discrimination in his “no-coloreds” policy, but insisted it was legal and fair because car insurance companies impose higher premiums on “high-risk” drivers.

“I live in rural Kent and you do not get an awful lot of people making an application from that ethic group,” he said.

“However, no one, but no one has done more for black tenants in Ashford than I have – I have bent over backwards to help them.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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North East councils prosecute only one landlord following 6,297 private rental complaints

Complaints_boxA campaigning letting agent has discovered that only one landlord has been successfully prosecuted by North East councils following a tenant complaint between 2014 and 2016.

The shocking statistic was discovered by Ajay Jagota, the director of the letting agency KIS using Freedom of Information requests submitted to Tyne and Wear local authorities.
Mr Jagota found that a total of 6,297 complaints about the condition of privately rented properties or the behaviour of landlords were received in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 yet only Sunderland council has brought a successful prosecution against a landlord during the period.

Newcastle recorded the highest number of complaints which rose from 1,007 in 2014 to 1,127 in 2016 – a rise of eight per cent. Sunderland saw claims fall from 509 in 2014 to 2090 last year. Gateshead and North Tyneside both saw complaint numbers fall from 2014 to 2015 but rising again in 2016.

South Tyneside council refused to supply the information, claiming that although it holds the information it would take an officer 18 hours to retrieve it, what the authority describes as “substantial effort and disproportionate exercise of trawling”.

“To put these figures into context, every day in every local authority in Tyne and Wear at least one person complains about the condition of their rented home– yet only one rogue landlord has been convicted in three years” says Jagota, who is also founder of deposit replacement insurance product Dlighted.

“A large amount of these complaints will of course be vexatious, unreasonable or more effectively resolved informally, but nonetheless no-one can look at these figures and say the system works” he says.

“With a General Election under way, all the main political parties are making a pitch to voters who rent but despite my own affiliations I have a sense that the proposed policies are just tinkering around the edges when more profound reform is needed.

“It’s critical for all good operators in the private rented sector that the rogues are brought to task and the only way that can happen is that the local authority execute the powers invested in them and ensure they take action when complaints are made.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Parliament report: Young Brits will be ‘priced out of housing for years’

generation-rent

The housing crisis for young people is likely to continue for years and the government lacks the ambition to address the need for affordable housing according to a Parliament report produced by the Public Accounts Committee

The report states that England’s housebuilding numbers have fallen well below targets for decades. Consequently, there has been  a long-running shortfall in the number of houses for sale which inflates house prices putting them beyond the reach of first-time buyers.

In order to address this, the Department for Communities and Local Government has put in place a target that could see one million homes constructed over the next five years.

However, it has admitted that England’s housing market is “broken” but has not made steps to improve the market, which is dominated by a select few private developers and could cause issues with meeting this target.

The Department also admitted that even if the one million homes were completed, a large shortfall would still exist to meet current demand. This means that issues relating to availability and affordability are likely to remain for several years beyond this five-year period.

A spokesperson from the Department said: “The Housing White Paper published in February includes measures to deliver more homes. On top of this, 112,338 households have used the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme since its launch.

“The Autumn Statement also included an extra £1.4 billion for affordable housebuilding, taking the total to over £7 billion to deliver more than 200,000 homes. And £550 million has already been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, with a focus on prevention.”

The positive statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman stands in stark contrast to the testimony given to Parliament by one of the country’s top civil servants charged with housing.

In February, the Permanent Secretary to the Department for Local Government Melanie Dawes admitted that Theresa May’s new policies will not stop the country’s housing crisis from continuing “as it has done for decades.”

Miss Dawes added that she was “simply being honest” when she revealed that houses prices are set to stay out of reach of those who cannot offered a property and that homelessness will continue to rise.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Buy-to-let tycoon Fergus Wilson facing legal action after admitting he banned ‘coloured’ tenants making his homes ‘stink of curry’

fergus-wilson

Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord Fergus Wilson is facing legal action after defending his policy to direct his letting agents not to let his properties to “coloured” people whom he claimed make his homes “stink of curry”.

Mr Wilson refused to deny making a list of requirements for tenants in an email to a letting agent seen by the Sun newspaper. He did however say that it was “some time ago”.

Wilson, who has previous convictions for assault and who last year failed in a bid to run for the role of Kent’s police and crime commissioner, said the controversy started when he bought a house in Ashford at a discounted price because of a strong smell of curry.

“I said when I bought it that within six months it’d be sorted but we just could not get rid of the bloody smell – it absolutely stank of curry,” he told Kent News.

“The carpets had to come up and the whole job meant throwing £12,000 down the drain.”

Mr Wilson then bought another house nearby but said a mixed-race family left the house smelling of curry at the end of their tenancy.

“It was a case of once bitten, twice shy,” he said.

“Having spent six months on the first one I said ‘no I’ve have enough, I do not want to take on another house where I have to get rid of a curry smell’.

“Yes, I accept not every individual coloured person likes and eats curry but I think a high proportion do and I had to go on probabilities.

“It was done because I did not care to repeat the experiences of before.”

When challenged on the use of language many would find offensive, he responded: “I use the term ‘coloured’ because it’s quicker and easier than saying ‘people from India, people from Africa and people who are Arabic’.

“To anybody who says I’m racist, I’ve just employed a coloured person.”

“Battered-wife” letting ban

This is not the first time Mr Wilson has been in the public eye for discriminating potential tenants. In January he issued letting criteria which banned single mums, battered wives, plumbers and low income earners.

His ban on battered wives came following his attempt to run stand for election for Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner on an anti-domestic violence platform. In the end his candidacy was ruled ineligible by the election officer for his previous assault conviction. Wilson also claimed that if elected he would return illegal immigrants to France the day after they arrive in Kent.

Speaking to the Sun Wilson denied he was a racist saying “To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people. It is a problem with certain types of coloured people – those who consume curry – it sticks to the carpet. You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”

He further claimed that while he doesn’t today employ a specific policy banning “coloureds” he estimates he’s only rented to 14 mixed-race tenants over his two decades in the property business.

“As long as their money is green, we’re happy to have them,” he said.

“But if the same situation happened again tomorrow, I would say the say thing, because I was being practical.”

Discrimination investigation

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said the watchdog would be investigating the comments and warning Wilson that he could face legal action.

“These are truly disgusting remarks as well as being unlawful instructions from a landlord to a letting agent,” she said. “There are still deep inequalities in our society as our race report demonstrated and these comments show why.

“As a country we all assume we have left the dark ages behind, but clearly there is more to be done. We will investigate and will be asking Mr Wilson to explain his actions. Unless we are satisfied that he will not commit unlawful acts in the future we will take legal action”.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord bans ‘coloureds’ from renting his properties because they ‘make them smell of curry’

Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES
Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES

Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord has banned ‘coloureds’ from renting his properties because they make them smell of curry.

In an email to his letting agent Evolution Properties, Fergus Wilson, 70 from Kent said: “No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy.”

Wilson who is reportedly worth around £100 million is no stranger to controversy.  In January it emerged that he banned “battered wives” from his properties claiming he does not want to risk ex-husbands or boyfriends returning to destroy his houses.

Also included on the list of proscribed tenants were children under 18, single adults, battered wives, tenants without a rent guarantee, people on housing benefit, low income workers, zero hours workers, plumbers, smokers and pet owners.

Wilson, who at one point owned 1,000 homes in Maidstone and Ashford, was unrepentant when challenged about the latest ban.

“To be honest, we’re getting overloaded with coloured people.”

“It is a problem with certain types of coloured people — those who consume curry — it sticks to the carpet.

“You have to get some chemical thing that takes the smell out. In extreme cases you have to replace the carpet.”

While Mr Wilson’s latest policy would not breach criminal law he could be sued in a civil court and has already been chastised by anti-racism group Hope Not Hate.

In December 2014 he banned tenants who shared his surname after several cases of ‘mistaken identity’ led to council tax disputes.

In the same year he sent eviction notices to over 200 of his tenants, many from low income backgrounds, claiming that he was “sending battered wives back to their partners to be beaten up again”.  He was also convicted in the same year for assaulting an estate agent over a broken boiler which he denied, claiming that he was “too fat to punch anybody or even tie his own shoelaces”.

Evolution, which manages hundreds of Wilson’s properties, has also condemned the policy and said it would never implement it. Evolution’s manager, Roy Fever, said: “We don’t condone this at all.

“We would never implement a policy like that. We put through anyone to the landlord and it is up to the landlord who they take on.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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The billions of corrupt wealth fuelling London’s housing crisis

money laundering london housing

Around £4.2bn of suspicious money is believed to be laundered through the London property market. 

The report produced by the London-based anti-corruption organization Transparency International claims that the purchase of luxury properties by corrupt individuals is also exacerbating the housing crisis by driving up prices in the rest of the city.

High property prices in the capital are also believed to facilitate large-scale money laundering operations by allowing greater sums to be transferred from overseas jurisdictions.

While there are multiple causes of London’s housing crisis, Transparency International claims to have found evidence that overseas corruption and the purchase of luxury London properties is playing a ‘significant contributory role’.

The findings are based on an analysis of Land Registry data for 14 landmark luxury developments, consisting of 2,066 future homes.

The report published this month follows a highly publicized announcement in December by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, of an investigation into the role played by foreign property buyers in London’s housing crisis.

Transparency International claims up to 80 per cent of properties in luxury developments are bought by overseas investors. Around 40 per cent are sold to individuals from high corruption risk jurisdictions. Much of the remainder are bought by ‘anonymous’ companies registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

London is an obvious destination for much of this money. Luxurious properties in the capital are in very high demand internationally. London prime real estate is renowned around the world as a symbol of wealth and respectability. The UK is also known as a safe-haven for corrupt individuals worldwide due to its political stability and robust legal system.

Money launderers can easily create offshore companies to hold wealth and assets and provide secrecy for the beneficial owners.

Transparency International claims that over 75% of the UK properties under criminal investigation for grand corruption use offshore corporate secrecy. For all criminal investigations analysed, every property that made use of a foreign company to hold property used a company from an offshore secrecy jurisdiction, rather than a major economy.

The organisation is now calling on the government to implement a public beneficial ownership register of overseas companies that own UK land titles. The creation of such a register was originally announced after the May 2016 Global Anti-Corruption Summit.

Poor International Enforcement

Transparancy International’s report comes following  the Public Accounts Committee’s admission that the UK performs poorly in tackling money laundering.

In 2013 only 26p out of every £100 of identified criminal gains was confiscated.  While the estimated loss to the economy through fraud last year stood at £52bn, enforcement agencies collected just £133m. According to the National Audit Office recovery of the money cost taxpayers an estimated £102m in administration costs.

The picture is similar internationally. In 2012 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that typical law enforcement detection levels for money laundering stand at around one per cent.

Reporting of suspicious activity in the property sector is particularly poor. Between October 2013 and September 2014, estate agents contributed to only 0.05% of all Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).

As of July 2014, across the England and Wales, at least £122bn worth of property was held by companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions. Out of 91,248 foreign company-owned properties in England and Wales, nearly two thirds are held via the British Virgin Islands and Channel Island structures.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Manchester’s looming housing crisis set to worsen sharply as population growth outstrips new build

Manchester housing cris
Manchester’s brewing housing crisis set to worsen over next five years.

Manchester’s growing housing crisis is expected to worsen sharply over the next five years. New analysis reveals that the city’s population is growing almost 15 times faster than new homes are being built.

Property adviser JLL predicts that house prices in Manchester are expected to increase by 28.2% due to growing demand from a surging population and insufficient supply.

In  2016 alone, Manchester residential property capital values grew by 16%. Overall prices in the North West are predicted to rise 18.1% until 2021.

Low levels of new-build

The North West’s and Manchester’s imbalance between supply and demand is the main reason property value growth rates are currently outpacing the rest of the UK.

According to the latest official figures, just 290 homes were built in Manchester in 2015-16. This brings the total number of dwellings (houses and flats) to around 218,500. At the same time, the city’s population increase by 10,000 according to population projections based on  2014/15 figures.

The imbalance between population growth and new-build is now one of the worst across the whole of the UK. Only Westminster and Kingston upon Thames in London saw a bigger gap between the rate of population growth and new houses being built.

Greater Manchester

The housing crisis is not confined to the city center alone. In Oldham the population is growing at five times the housebuilding rate. Meanwhile, the populations of Stockport and Salford are both growing three times faster than new homes are being built in the area.

Across the conurbation only two boroughs, Bury and Wigan, saw the number of new homes grow faster than the population increase.

Manchester’s housing shortfall is now publicized widely on property investment forums. In January, the letting agent Martin & Co identifed Manchester, Cardiff and London as the most lucrative places to invest in buy-to-let properties. Rental demand was cited as one of the strongest indicators for profitable buy-to-let locations.

Once again renters will be the biggest losers. According to John Goodall, CEO of Landbay: “Tenants will have little choice but to compete for what properties are on offer. As a result we expect rents to rise faster than the pace of inflation next year, with growth tripling to 3% by the end of 2017.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Child sex abuser who applied for landlord license from jail among four Glasgow men banned from letting properties

govanhill

Four landlords including a convicted child sex offender from Govanhill have been banned from renting homes by Glasgow City Council.

Muhammed Anwar applied for renewal of his landlord registration while serving a six-year jail sentence for three child sex abuse offences. The application was refused by a council committee along with three other rogue landlords.

The other men: Akhtar Ali, Ashiq Mohammed and Shabnam Sattar were found to be no longer fit to be landlords by Glasgow city council’s licensing and regulatory committee due to issues with their properties.

Mr Ali’s ban arose from concerns about his property management following a fire at one of his properties in Glenapp Street which resulted in two people being taken to hospital.

Additional  inspections of properties on Prince Edward Street, Garturk Street and Hickman Street revealed that gas and electricity meters had been by-passed and the flats had no smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Ashiq Mohammed and Shabnam Sattar failed fit and proper persons tests. Both did not provide enhanced criminal record certificates, current building insurance policies, confirmation form tenants that they had received their information packs, gas safety and energy performance certificates.

A spokesman for Glasgow council said: “We are very pleased that the work of the Landlord Registration Unit has been endorsed by the Licensing Committee.

“Our team is determined to ensure that those people on the Landlord Register are fit to be landlords.

“Whenever there is evidence that a landlord is no longer a suitable person to rent out property or they fail to manage their property appropriately, we will always seek to take action against them.

“Govanhill has been an area of the city where particular problems with landlords have been identified. The additional powers available to us through Govanhill’s Enhanced Enforcement Area are helping us to improve housing standards in the area.”

Wider Problem

The most recent bans from the landlord register comes following the banning of nine rogue Glasgow landlords in November. One of men banned had been convicted of assault with intent to rape.

The latest crackdown on rogue landlords in Glasgow comes following a highly publicized BBC Scotland investigation in August last year into housing abuse in Govanhill. It is reported that housing conditions are so bad that in some cases newborn babies are living in flats without running water.

Banned landlords may face prosecution and a fine of up to £50,000 if they attempt to let a property in future.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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