28 unlicensed landlords found in just three Woolwich streets on one day

Greenwich Council tweeted the discovery of 28 previously unknown Homes of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Woolwich yesterday. They were found on three streets – Brookhill, Sandy Hill and Elmdene Roads. Since October 1st HMOs have needed to be licensed in the borough.

It may have been more but bizarrely they put up a sign advertising the fact they were doing checks. So any passing landlords, tenant or random individual could get calls out to not open the door.

The checks are a good step given the multitude of issues previously discovered.

Regulation of HMO landlords was agreed after checks had found huge levels of problems amongst HMO houses. Back in January 2016 a council report found noted the results of checks on private lettings:

“In summary, as at the 5 January 2016 the following had been achieved: 1,219 properties have been visited by Intelligence Officers with 460 found to be HMOs. This has resulted in nearly 1,000 enforcement investigations.

Over 1,770 hazards and breaches of legislation have been identified during the inspections.”

Despite having the power to license for at least a decade it took a long time for Greenwich’s Cabinet to agree the move. It’s welcome to see action on problems causing widespread problems, yet it’s still one of the mildest forms of licensing they could adopt.

On the council’s HMO page there is no option for tenants or neighbours to report a suspected HMO.

In addition, they can license all homes rented privately in the worst 20% of areas for anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping. It was previously the entire borough until central government restricted practices. Despite the council often blaming all ills on central government, this option has not been taken up yet.

The fine for not licensing a HMO is up to £30,000 and/or prosecution, along with the possibility of paying back up to 12 months rental income. The authority also has the ability to take control of rental income.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

    9 thoughts on “28 unlicensed landlords found in just three Woolwich streets on one day

    • There is a direct phone number for neighbours and tenants to report suspected HMOs/rogue practises – and an email address. Councillors have requested that these be displayed prominently on the home page of the Council website. 020 8921 4661 envirocrime@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

      Cllrs Sarah Merrill, Chris Kirby and Danny Thorpe and Clive Efford MP would appreciate being copied in, as the Government is being lobbied .

      There is now a large team of enforcement officers. However, there have been a number of concerns raised about the ineffectual nature of the identification sweeps in Flaxton and Piedmont Roads. These were to be raised, with the team, by the same councillors. Disappointingly, there has been no subsequent response but, judging by the haul of 28 (there will likely be more, yet to be identified as that area has a reputation for unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded HMOs), hopefully those issues have been resolved.

    • Dont agree with this! As a landlord I agree Landlords should not compromise with Health and Safety regulations. I dont think Houses should be considered as HMO if there are 4 or less people living there. It makes no difference to the environment with rubbish collection etc if recycling is done. However, Greenwich are applying the HMO Licenese to any properties with 3 or more occupants. Thats an extra £1100 cost for a License for 5 years. All of these fees are going to kill the HMO market and with recent changes to Tax rules. The decent Landlords are just going to leave the game. Who suffers in the end ? The Tenants! The Landlords have to comply or get major fines so the Tenants have to leave. Yes there needs to be decent housing standards not room in sheds and maximum people 4 people to 1 toilet etc. Its the fees that annoy me because its these costs will only be passed on to the tenant. People end up homeless and what do the Council do to help these single people in average paying Jobs who will now be homeless? Nothing.

      Its a double standard here look at how the council are treating their own tenants. Have a look
      Families living in single rooms in an industrial estate!

      I do understand that yes a portion of Landlords have taken the biscuit by having loads of people living in Squalor conditions and it has an environmental impact in the neighborhood if the property is not kept in good repair. However, ultimately the Landlord has the final decision to throw in the towel and put the property up for sale but then who buys it?

      • Landlord tax relief not available to first time buyers/owner occupiers has been a major source of speculation putting prices up above the reach of many possible owner occupiers then forced to rent.

        The rapid increase in buy to let and HMOs in the past 10-20 years has been a factor in people on average wages not being able to buy.

    • I agree with you somewhat. Ultimately though the reason for the House Price increase is due to housing shortage and population increase. All the new builds should have been for the people of the UK with some rental and some to buy overseas investors should have never been allowed! We can’t correct the last 10-20 years my main point is that the crackdown makes it incredibly expensive and the person who is most inconvenienced is the tenant.

    • Só, when these HMO’s are discovered, are the tenants given support to find a new housing arrangement, or are they merely turfed-out? It seems to me that the Greenwich Council has NEVER done enough to help singletons find safe accommodation within the Borough.

      • They can take over the operation.

    • Landlord has the right to decide whether they wish to alter THEIR property. If they don’t want to they can give the tenants the relevant notice (60 days) to get them out. Perhaps, I am biased in this topic but all this extra administration is a burden on the half decent Landlords. You may find these hard to believe but not every tenant hates their Landlord.

      In addition when the Council get involve their is a detrimental effect on the Landlord tenant relationship. Most tenants who rent rooms quite often do not meet the criteria to go through Estate Agents and do not want a long term 12 month contract to rent a room. They may get a new job, leave the country or just fancy a change.

      If i were in this boat I would just sell the House. I would rather deal with the grief of evicting tenants and sell. As opposed to dealing with the Council regularly and being told what to do. If you have a good relationship with your Tenants they would leave peacefully.

      • I disagree. A house of multiple occupation should be safe and fit for habitation. Those being targeted by local authorities are the very worst. They exploit poor people and enrich the landlord. A decent landlord will never come to the attention of the local authority and thus has nothing to fear. Slum landlords should be stamped out.

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