May 25 2013 Latest news:
Kay Atwal, Chief Reporter
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Rogue landlords who overcharge tenants while providing substandard accommodation are being tackled by Newham Council using anti-drug legislation.
The council is taking such landlords to court using the Proceeds of Crime Act that allows local authorities to recover cash and assets from people convicted of offences. It has been used to target gang bosses, drug dealers and fraudsters.
The council, which has the country’s first landlord registration scheme, has set up two task force teams, one of which will tackle the growing menace of ‘super sheds’ built in back gardens and house tenants with very basic amenities.
A spokesman for the council said: “When the licensing scheme goes live, landlords who do not sign up will be considered to be engaged in criminal activity and subject to asset recovery. We estimate up to 40 cases could result in the first year.
The council even plans to use aerial photography and infra-red imagery to help track down these shanty-style dwellings.
“Currently, Newham is investigating about 100 reported cases of super sheds - and it warns unscrupulous landlords are exploiting this ‘slum’ accommodation.
“The new task force will proactively confront the problem. Meanwhile the second team will be dealing with the large number of backlog of cases.”
Councillors approved the two new task force teams at a cabinet meeting in July. The proposal is subject to full council approving funding in September.
The authority has already taken enforcement action against two landlords and a third is the subject fo criminal proceedings. Money raised from such action is divided between the council, the courts and central government. The money recovered by the council, will go directly into enforcement.
Cllr Unmesh Desai, executive member for crime and anti-social behaviour, said: “These buildings are not just illegal and an eyesore. They are dangerous and often used by landlords to sub-let. The creation of this task force gives a very clear message about our zero tolerance approach to illegal building, which is a crime. They are unsafe – endangering the inhabitants - and unsightly.”