A slumlord who was renting out six properties without a licence – one of which was deemed unfit for human habitation – has been hammered with a £9000 fine and ordered to repay £3000 in costs.

Mark Graft, 42, of Warwick Avenue, Edgware, north London, was hit with the huge bill at the Inner London Crown Court (ILCC) on 8 May.

At an earlier Stratford Magistrates’ Court hearing, Graft had pleaded not guilty. However, on the day of the trial he changed his plea to guilty of six offences of failing to license private rented properties, all on Colchester Avenue, Manor Park. Sentencing was passed to ILCC but Graft failed to attend the hearings. A warrant for his arrest was issued and he was remanded in custody.

Five of his properties – all flats – were in a very poor and dangerous condition. One was even prohibited for human habitation by the council, the court heard. It took Graft 11 months to comply with an improvement notice for this.

Council officers from Private Housing and Environmental Health discovered damp, mould, fire and electrical hazards including exposed wires, overcrowding and severely rotten windows.

All of the properties are now licensed under an alternative licence holder.

Newham is the first borough in the country to apply licensing to all of its privately rented properties.

The pioneering scheme, covering an estimated 40,000 private tenancies, came into force at the beginning of the year.

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said:

“This scheme shows that Newham is a leading the country when it comes to tackling bad landlords who flout the law.

“We want to ensure that private sector rented properties are well managed and meet a good standard. We also want to deal with the crime and anti-social behaviour that is sometimes associated with bad private sector rented housing.

“There are good landlords in Newham and we want to work with them. Unfortunately there are also some unscrupulous ones – which these proposals would target.”

Sir Robin added: “We will never accept private sector tenants being directly exploited by landlords who force them to live in dangerous and unacceptable conditions.

“Good landlords have nothing to fear from this scheme. For the bad ones, this a clear message they must clean up their act – or pay the price.

“One bad house can drag down a whole street. We are doing this for the community.”

Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: “We are delighted to hear that Newham Council could be introducing this scheme, which would help protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords who are making their tenants’ lives hell.

“With a chronic shortage of social housing and more and more people being priced out of the housing market, renting is fast becoming the only option for thousands more Londoners. Our advice service for tenants in Newham sees people every day who are suffering at the hands of rogue landlords who are ignoring their responsibilities and wreaking havoc on tenants lives.

“We urge other local councils to follow Newham’s lead in sending a clear signal that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority.”

[The  EHP,  Tuesday, 21 May, 2013]