Does licensing private rented homes work? HMO tenant’s complaints about sewage leak go unanswered

PUBLISHED: 17:12 05 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:40 05 September 2018

The woman stands in the hallway of the HMO looking at the hole left by sewage which caused the ceiling to collapse. Picture: Polly Hancock

The woman stands in the hallway of the HMO looking at the hole left by sewage which caused the ceiling to collapse. Picture: Polly Hancock


All private rented homes in three problem-hit Hackney wards will be launched next month in an effort to crack down on rogue landlords – but will it work?

The ceiling in the hallway of the HMO collapsed after a sewage leak from the toilet above.The ceiling in the hallway of the HMO collapsed after a sewage leak from the toilet above.

The town hall hopes the measures will stop homeowners neglecting their properties and forcing tenants to live in awful conditions.

But licensing is already in place for large HMOs across the whole of Hackney, and the Gazette has spoken to one tenant who has questioned whether the scheme is working.

The woman, who has asked not to be named, lives in a licensed HMO in Stoke Newington. Earlier this year the ceiling collapsed in the communal hallway because of a sewage leak from an upstairs toilet.

It was fixed, but not very well, and it again collapsed last month.

A damp patch in the HMO. Picture: Polly HancockA damp patch in the HMO. Picture: Polly Hancock

She reported it to the council after it happened, but the huge hole is still there and the place stinks. The town hall now apologised for the delay.

“There’s been an ongoing issue with disrepair,” she told the Gazette.

“The council did an inspection on the place and gave the landlord a licence earlier this year. But the ceiling fell in for the second time last month and it’s still like that now.

“There’s a leak from the toilet above, all the dirty sewage is pouring through the ceiling and into the carpet.

“I also have a leak in my room from a different property upstairs.”

The tenant, who was placed in the property last year by Barnet Council, said the landlord was aware of the problem and had promised the tenants that someone would come round to fix it.

But that was three weeks ago. She turned to Hackney Council for help 10 days ago.

“I’ve complained to the private sector housing services at Hackney Council but that was more than a week ago and nothing has been done.”

Under the national mandatory licensing scheme an HMO must be licensed if it is a building consisting of three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more tenants in two or more households.

From next month all 4,000 HMOs will need to be licensed under the same measures that will affect all private properties in Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington.

A spokesperson for Hackney Council told the Gazette it had only logged the complaint on Friday last week and had tried to contact the tenant to deal with the issue, but could not get through.

They said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure landlords in Hackney treat renters fairly and keep their homes safe, which is why we’re expanding our enforcement team and introducing new property licensing measures to ensure landlords do the right thing - those that don’t comply can expect to face prosecution and financial penalties.

“We’re very concerned to hear about the conditions in this home and apologise for any delay in following up the initial complaint. We have now made contact with both the tenant and the landlord’s agent to ensure that this is fully investigated and any necessary action taken”.

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