Renter left homeless over £ 700 debt: rental companies illegally evict people during pandemic Business News


One morning in May, after weeks of foreclosure measures, a beefy, bald man confronted Juan Alvarez at the front door, demanding that he either pay his rent immediately or be removed from his rented apartment in south London.

His salary from a waiter job had dried up and he could not pay his rent in full.

“Right away they started harassing me,” Alvarez says. In less than an hour, his belongings were dumped on the streets, another man had changed the locks and Alvarez was left homeless for a payment of £ 700 overdue by a few weeks.

Evictions are expected to increase with the end of government financial support, rising unemployment and the ban on sending people from their homes expires on January 11. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of tenants are late due to lost income.

The situation comes amid growing concerns over the unregulated rental market in England, where thousands of agencies have sprung up in recent years – some of which operate outside the law and beyond.

Tenant removed from the house and locks changed

This month, 19 organizations, including Shelter, Safer Renting and Generation Rent, formed a coalition to pressure the government to improve standards for private rented accommodation and give tenants the power to stand up to landlords.

Alvarez rented his room from Simple Properties London, a company that mimics the language of vacation rental sites like Airbnb, describing owners as “hosts” and a rental as “stay”.

It’s part of what housing officials say has been an explosion in recent years of ‘hire-hire’ agencies that have been linked to a surge in illegal evictions in recent months. Safer Renting, an organization that supports private tenants in London, said earlier this year it had seen a 50% increase since the start of the pandemic.

Rental agencies lease properties to owners and sublet rooms to tenants. To make the business model viable, some of them ignore laws requiring licensing and security checks, crowding people into overcrowded, unsafe and poorly maintained housing. A tenant who cannot pay, even for a short period, risks eroding the agency’s profits. There is no indication that Simple Properties London treated its tenants in this manner.

Simple Properties mimics sites like Airbnb, but tenant rights remain the same – any evictions must be approved by a court with at least two months’ notice.

(Juan Alvarez)

In February, Simple Properties London, another company called Simple Properties Management and two directors were fined a combined £ 106,000 for managing an unlicensed multiple-occupancy house (HMO).

The apartment’s kitchen had been partitioned to transform a two-bed apartment into a four-bed apartment that could accommodate five people. Damaged wiring from a washing machine was left exposed in the property’s bathroom and the property’s fire alarms and emergency exits were found to be inadequate.

In another case from the same month, a district court found that Simple Properties Management had unlawfully evicted a tenant from another accommodation.

Two months later, when Juan Alvarez ran into financial difficulty, he says he did everything Simple Properties London asked him to do and tried to negotiate a payment plan. “I tried to talk to them nicely and get a deal because I couldn’t pay but they weren’t waiting,” he says.

“I asked them to use my deposit, but they said they couldn’t do it.”

Instead, they kicked him out and took bail anyway, he says. Evicting a tenant without notice and without court approval is illegal, but police have refused to investigate, a common result in such cases.

The sole director of Simple Properties London, Santiago Hidalgo Ferrin, said he was “surprised” to learn of the incident and knew nothing about it.

In England anyone can set up a rental agency without any oversight, unlike Scotland and Wales where agents have to register with the authorities and meet certain standards.

Renting an HMO without a license is a crime, police investigations are rare, and the rewards from renting can be substantial.

Inadequate ventilation and overcrowding are common issues in unlicensed HMOs, making them at high risk for the spread of Covid-19. Unannounced evictions and theft of depots are frequently reported.

In the worst times of the market, properties are bought with the proceeds of organized crime to house victims of human trafficking who are subjected to modern slavery or prostitution, says Al McClenahan, of Justice for Tenants, a non-profit organization that helps people. obtain compensation from owners and agencies.

McClenahan says the pandemic has highlighted the scale and severity of an often overlooked problem.

“When the coronavirus hit and many service sector jobs were lost, there were thousands of tenants in rental buildings who lost their …

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This notice was published: 2021-04-25 11:11:22