Sadiq Khan’s office has been unable to confirm whether building owners successfully prosecuted by the capital’s fire brigade for life threatening failures of fire and safety laws will be included in his ‘name and shame’ list of bad landlords.
On Wednesday the Mayor announced that landlords and letting agents “successfully prosecuted for housing offences” would be listed on the City Hall website, giving prospective tenants “greater confidence” that their chosen home would be safe and well run.
According to Mr Khan’s office, the list will detail those “prosecuted by a London borough, and will launch this autumn with data provided by Camden, Newham, Brent, Southwark, Kingston and Sutton councils. Other councils will be added “early next year”.
However City Hall has been unable to say whether the data supplied will include details of building owners and landlords prosecuted by the London Fire Brigade which has its own enforcement role and routinely brings charges against those who endanger the lives of tenants and residents.
In 2015 LFB brought a case against the owner of a Hounslow flat at which a fatal fire broke out. Fire safety inspectors found it was impossible for people to evacuate the premises quickly and safely and that the property lacked any fire detectors, small alarms or firefighting equipment.
A successful prosecution resulted in the landlord being fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 prosecution costs.
In 2014 the Brigade prosecuted a landlord who let out bedsits above a Marylebone pub without properly maintaining fire extinguishers and providing “inadequate fire detection” equipment in the property.
The same year it brought a case against a Clapham landlord who continued renting out a property despite fire safety inspectors issuing a notice preventing its use “due to serious fire safety concerns”.
These concerns included a lack of emergency lighting, “poorly managed” cooking equipment in each bedsit, failure to ensure the fire escape was unblocked at all times and “electrics that were unmaintained throughout”. LFB chiefs called the home “a potential death trap”.
Mr Khan, who announced his new database as he joined a landlord enforcement raid in Newham, said: “I refuse to stand by as thousands of Londoners suffer sky-high rents and horrendous living conditions in a city they call home.”
“Today I have seen first-hand the abysmal conditions that some of London’s private renters are forced to endure as a result of rogue landlords.
“I want to be clear that the vast majority of landlords treat renters well – but a minority are exploiting their tenants and it’s simply unacceptable. This must stop now.”
Despite the Mayor’s claims that his list would improve the conditions Londoners live in, his office has been unable to provide on the record confirmation that the data provided by partner councils will include details of landlords prosecuted by the fire brigade or that the LFB’s own pan-London data will be included in the database.
Without such data, prospective renters won’t know which landlords have previously endangered the lives of their tenants.
Commenting on the apparent absence of information about fire related prosecutions, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said: “While the proposed online database to name and shame criminal landlords and letting agents who exploit their tenants is a great idea it seems the Mayor’s office are missing a huge trick if the database does not include landlords convicted of fire safety offences.
“A joined up approach is desperately needed to ensure that landlords who break fire safety legislation are properly covered on the database.
“If the Mayor is really serious about tackling all rogue landlords it is vital that City Hall gets its act together on this issue.”
Update: On Thursday, almost 24 hours after they were first asked to provide an on the record comment, a spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The initial scheme launching in the autumn with six boroughs is a starting point for the database and will not initially include London Fire Brigade prosecutions.
“Once the database has been rolled out we will identify if further information is needed and may look to include fire brigade prosecutions when it is in operation across London early next year.”