- New figures reveal thousands of tenants are at risk of death in their properties
- Shocking stats emerged after two men died in a four-bedroom Edgware home
- They were living with at least five others in the ramshackle unlicensed property
Nearly three quarters of a million people are living in dirty or unsafe homes and thousands of lives are at risk because of rogue landlords, new figures reveal.
Home owners are defying the rules on rental standards which were introduced to improve the quality of accommodation – leaving renters in shoddy conditions.
The shocking figures emerged after two men died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in a four-bedroom property in Edgware, north London.
They were living with at least five others, including two children, in the unlicensed house in multiple occupancy (HMO), who were all taken to hospital.
Some 1.8million people reside in HMOs that do not have a carbon monoxide alarm, according to the English Housing Survey.
And at least 690,000 live in HMOs which fail to meet minimum standards – 375,000 of whom are in homes with a category-one hazard, such as a dangerous boiler.
HMOs are properties with at least five people from two or more families residing in them and are often home to students, migrants and families struggling to get by.
There are an estimated half a million in the UK which house at least two and a half million people.
The real figure is thought to be much higher because some can accommodate up to 40 people using bunk beds and mattresses on the floor.
Because HMOs are known for being particularly run-down homes, owners must apply for a licence and their properties may then be inspected.
But the absence of a national database means potentially tens of thousands of properties slip under the radar and their owners avoid inspections.
Harrow council says it intends to prosecute the owners of the unlicensed property in Edgware where two men were found dead on April 8.
Christy Chelvendra, from Sri Lanka, reportedly ran the home on behalf of his daughter, a partner at a law firm.
The 72-year-old himself lives in a double-fronted home in north London where detached properties fetch upwards of £1.5million, The Times reported.
Four cars sit on his drive: two Mercedes, a BMW convertible and a Mini.
Martin Tett, from the Local Government Association, said it wasn’t right that civil penalties are greater than those delivered by magistrates.
‘A key deterrent to rogue landlords would be for the government to set common sentencing guidelines which deliver consistency across the courts,’ he said.
While landlords can be let off with small fines in court, councils have recently been given the power to enforce civil penalties of up to £30,000.
Newham council successfully prosecuted landlord Michael Docker and his agent last year.
His three-bedroom flat above a commercial premises had been converted into an unlicensed HMO with 15 bedrooms and 20 residents.
Council officers were shocked to discover the fire alarm had been turned off and some of the rooms had no windows.
A door had been ripped off by a rent collector confronting a tenant who refused to pay a higher sum of rent demanded by the agent, the court heard.
The landlord and agent were fined £100,000.