Hounslow Council Targets Rogue Letting Agents

by Property118.com News Team

13:06 PM, 4th March 2013
About 6 years ago

Hounslow Council Targets Rogue Letting Agents

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Hounslow Council Targets Rogue Letting Agents

Hounslow Council Targets Rogue Letting AgentsHounslow Council is warning rogue letting agents that they could be prosecuted for advertising illegal backyard dwellings.

More than 100 letting agents in and around the borough are being contacted by the council, urging them not to market illegal developments built without planning permission or building regulation approval.

The message is being sent out to agents after the council set up a task force to deal with the blight of illegal dwellings that are built and let out as residential accommodation.

These are frequently garages or outbuildings that have been laid out with facilities including kitchens and bathrooms as well as utilities.

They are often in poor condition and are unsafe to live in because of issues such as damp and mould, inadequate heating, and poor electrics. They are also often overcrowded.

Cllr Steve Curran, cabinet member for housing and education at the council, said:

“Most letting agents in the borough are responsible and have nothing to worry about.

“But, unfortunately, there are a few who see lining their own pockets as more important than the safety of the people who pay them significant sums every month to live in illegal buildings.

“We are tackling this on two fronts – identifying and taking action against illegal buildings, and trying to hit the developers in the pocket by making it harder for them to let them out.

“If we can make it less profitable to flout the law, we should see less being built.

“Letting agents have a duty to make sure that any property they let out has the necessary planning permission and building regulations approval. If it doesn’t, it is not suitable to be used as living accommodation, and they should not be advertising it.”

The council recently set up a team dedicated to tackling this issue, who are currently working to identify suspected properties where outbuildings have been illegally converted into residential use.

When a property is identified, they will take whatever action is appropriate to resolve the problem. This could involve requiring the owner to undertake extensive works, prohibiting the use of these buildings or even demolition. Owners will be charged the cost of enforcement and may be prosecuted for non-compliance.

To find out more about what the council are doing, or to report a suspected illegal dwelling, visit www.hounslow.gov.uk/illegaloutbuildings

Notes for Editors

The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 creates criminal offences for making false and misleading statements in relation to certain matters regarding land such as buildings.

If letting agents are unable to establish that a property has the right approvals, then marketing the property as residential accommodation could be an offence.

If a letting landlord is unable to get confirmation from landlords that planning and building regulation approvals are in place, they can contact the planning office at planningcomments@hounslow.gov.uk and building control on building.control@hounslow.gov.uk



Comments

4:04 AM, 5th March 2013
About 6 years ago

Surely LA have an obligation to check the legal title of a property before marketing it!
I very much doubt whether any of these beds in sheds have legal title!!!!!
Therefore they should NOT be marketed.
How do you obtain an EPC on a shed?
Again i thought it was COMPULSORY for an EPC to be obtained before you market the property!?
Therefore ANY LA that has not carried out these basic checks is flouting the law!
Let us see a few convictions with prison sentences handed out!

Mark Alexander

7:52 AM, 5th March 2013
About 6 years ago

Politically speaking, this is a great move for Hounslow Council as it's a good short term vote winner. What voter would think this is a bad idea? I know for sure that good landlords will support it as the beds in sheds style landlords and rogue agents fuel the fire of organisations such as Shelter which constantly vilify landlords through the media as a group. The author of this piece wrote in in covering email "vast majority of landlords are good, but there are a bad few we need to get to up their game!" Who can reasonably dispute that.

The Tenancy Relations Officers will love this as they will no doubt be resourced to do what their contracts say. Blue lights affixed to their heads it's going to be party time for them and I look forward to reading and hopefully covering a few stories as exclusives here.

In the longer term though I do wonder whether this could backfire on Hounslow. Let's suppose they clear out just 20 rogue operators and they each have 20 sets of tenants. That's 400 homeless people going straight to the top of Hounslows homeless unit list. Will they put these people into B&B's and what quality will they be? Alternatively, will they try to do a deal with another Local Authority to find these people a home and get accused of social cleansing as Newham did when
Stoke blew the whistle on Newham exporting their less desirables?

There isn't a simple answer to this problem unless more housing is created and we are a long way from achieving that as a country.

What's needed is institutional investment but I can't see that happening to provide social housing with Universal Credit on the horizon and such outdated possession rules which protect tenants who choose not to pay rent, disrespect properties or disrespect their neighbours.

As one person recently commented on this forum, "are beds in sheds a necessary evil right now?"

Where I do think the government have missed a trick is not allowing pension schemes to invest into residential property. I can see why the u-turn occurred just before the A-Day pensions reform, in short is was too wide ranging and open to abuse. However, allowing people to invest their pension schemes into high risk off plan Carribean hotel projects and Brazillian rain forest but not the UK housing market does seems a bit like lunacy don't you think?

If the government were to allow UK private pensions to invest into bespoke new build social housing schemes, operated on leasebacks to Councils and RSL's (registered social landlords) I suspect there would be interesting take up levels. Simple rules on planning permissions for such units would enable the government to prevent use of pensions being manipulated in the ways they recognised and were fearful of just prior to A-Day.

Until all of this happens, sadly, the politicians are going to continue to play the same, short term, political, vote winning games with landlords continuing to be the pawns in that game 🙁


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