Hounslow Council Targets Rogue Letting Agents
Tackling 'blight' of illegal dwellings let out as residential
Hounslow 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
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 email@example.com and building control on firstname.lastname@example.org .
March 5, 2013