A LANDLORD has been fined following a fire in an outbuilding that left two people in hospital.
Ace Management, of Kings Avenue, Winchmore Hill, London, was ordered to pay £12,000 after admitting renting a house in Melfort Road, Thornton Heath, without being licensed to do so.
Two men had to be rescued by firefighters and taken to hospital after a fire in an outbuilding at the address on October 2nd last year.
An investigation by Croydon council found that while the property was not licensed to have more than one household living there, it was occupied by more than five unrelated tenants sharing cooking and bathing facilities. It was also found not to have any fire precautions in place.
As well as the fine, Croydon magistrates ordered the agent to pay court costs of £2,375. A licence has since been issued for the property and fire precautions installed.
Cllr Dudley Mead, cabinet member for housing, said: “This case highlights the need for landlords to comply with licensing regulations and ensure that their properties are brought up to the required standard.
“It was fortunate that the fire did not spread to the main house and that firefighters were able to bring it under control in time.
“Tenants living in unlicensed properties are at risk of living in sub-standard, unsafe conditions, and the council will not hesitate to take action against landlords who break the law by failing to apply for a licence.”
Ace Management pleaded guilty to breaching Section 72(1) of the Housing Act 2004. The hearing took place at Croydon magistrates’ court on May 7th.
(Source: Croydon council press release)
LETTING AGENT RENTED HOUSE TO TENANT WITHOUT OWNER’S PERMISSION – THEN POCKETED THE DEPOSIT
A Purley-based letting agent was found guilty of renting a house to a tenant, without the owner’s permission, and then pocketing the deposit.
Thirugnanaselvam Damayantharan denied three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act when he appeared at Croydon magistrates’ court having pleaded guilty to two Companies Act 2006 offences at an earlier hearing.
The court heard that Damayantharan, who commonly uses the name Mr Damo, was trading under the name of Kingwood Estate Agents, in Brighton Road, Purley, during 2010. The company was handling the letting of a house called The Cottage, in Plough Lane, Purley, for the owner, Mr Barry, who became unhappy with the service offered.
As the tenants of The Cottage approached the end of their tenancy in summer 2011, they advised the landlord they were not renewing. Mr Barry declined the offer of Kingswood Estate Agents to find a new tenant, asking instead that a closing inventory be prepared for the departing tenants.
In June 2011, he instructed a new agent to handle future lettings. During the following month, Damo contacted a Ms Woodside and took her to view The Cottage. They were shown around the house by the tenants and Ms Woodside said she would like to rent the property. She paid a £250 cash deposit and Damo then asked for a year’s rent as security deposit.
She refused and he agreed to take two months’ rent, a sum of £2,985, which Ms Woodside duly paid. In late July, the tenants moved out of The Cottage, but their deposit was not refunded by Damo, and in early August, tenants found by the new letting agent moved in. Ms Woodside phoned Damo a number of times, trying to find out when she could move into The Cottage, but was told that there were delays in the tenants vacating the property.
She later learned, on visiting The Cottage, that it had been occupied by new tenants.
Her demands for a refund of her deposit were ignored by Damo, her phone calls were not returned and, in September 2011, the Brighton Road office closed. Mr Barry subsequently discovered that Damo lived in the same road as him, and visited his house several times, asking for the return of the £1,100 tenancy deposit owing to the tenants who had moved out.
It was never forthcoming and Mr Barry had to repay the deposit himself.
At the end of a day-long trial he was fined £3,000, and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,000. The bench agreed to a request to pay the sum at the rate of £500 per month. Two witnesses for the prosecution were awarded compensation of £3,235 and £1,100 respectively, plus £15 victim surcharge.
Cllr Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety, said: “Unfortunately, there are rogues in every profession and they are rarely exposed until their actions have caused upset and misery for their innocent victims.
“The council’s trading standards department was diligent in getting to the bottom of the case and bringing this letting agent to book. “Thanks to the hard work of the officers involved, the offender has been hit with a hefty fine and his victims will be fully compensated for the money he swindled from them.” (Source: Croydon council press release)
LONDON ‘COULD LOSE VALUABLE OFFICE SPACE’
Two-thirds of London is at risk of losing valuable office space, following the Government’s decision to allow developers to turn offices into flats without planning permission, says the London Assembly Labour group.
Many boroughs requested exemptions from the Government policy but were turned down, . “Under the new regime businesses are practically confined to areas dictated by secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles. “By drawing boundaries around exempted areas the Government is directing where business should develop and cluster. “Previously clusters like Tech City, which has been exempted, could expand naturally.
“Local government officers complained they found out about the decisions on a public website” said the group.
London Assembly Labour spokesperson on planning, Nicky Gavron has argued against the policy as the planning system already provides local authorities the tools to allow conversions where appropriate. “These exemptions should be seen for what they are – a Government which trumpets localism whilst once again ignores local concerns. “It’s extraordinary that only ten out of 33 London boroughs were exempted from this policy when the economy needs all the help it can get.
“The vast majority of London is at risk of losing the office space that existing small businesses and start-ups rely on to thrive. “We know there are better ways of getting housing than at the expense of jobs and growth.
“How will the Tech Cities of the future pop up when any property outside the boundaries will have too high a value for many businesses and start-ups? “The difference in value between employment and residential properties is already high, and this policy will double or treble it in areas which aren’t exempted.” (Source: London Assembly Labour Group press release).
COUNCIL AWARDED FUNDING TO TACKLE HOUSING FRAUD
Croydon council has been given £200,000 from the government to crackdown on illegal subletting of housing association stock and temporary accommodation.
The funding, part of a £9.5 million government initiative for councils to tackle social housing fraud and ensure homes go to those who need them, will see officers carry out visits, data checks, and work more closely with housing associations on fraud investigations.
The council bid for the cash on the back of two major cases for the borough in cracking down on tenancy fraud. Earlier this year, the council secured a custodial sentence after carrying out its first ever illegal subletting prosecution using the Fraud Act.
A South Croydon resident was jailed for eight weeks in February after admitting the offence. This followed the case of a woman who was ordered to give up her Pawson’s Road council home in Broad Green in January after she was found to have been illegally subletting it.
For every housing association property recovered, the council will receive full rights to nominate future tenants.
Cllr Dudley Mead, cabinet member for housing, said: “With housing shortages across the country, it is vital we carry out robust checks and monitoring of our own housing stock, to ensure it is being correctly used.
“This funding will give the council greater muscle in catching those who abuse the social housing system at the taxpayer’s expense.”
Residents can report suspected fraud in confidence at www.croydon.gov.uk or via the tenancy fraud hotline on 0800 328 9270.
(Source: Croydon council press release)
FOXTONS SUBMIT RENEWED PLANS FOR 26 WESTOW HILL
FOXTON’S have submitted fresh plans for the former South East Asia restaurant premises at 26 Westow Hill.
The plans include the erection of single storey rear extension, installation of skylight above kitchen , and siting of four air conditioning units; installation of shopfront; and illuminated fascia and projecting signs.
In August last year Foxtons lost their appeal over plans to turn the former South East restaurant on Westow Hill into another branch.
The report of the inspector who decided the case said the main issues are the effects of: the proposed shopfront on the character and appearance of the Upper Norwood Triangle conservation area and the proposed rear extension on the living conditions of nearby occupiers.
Agents Montagu Evans, in a letter to Croydon council, say: “This application has been submitted after formal pre-application discussion with the council who indicated that the proposed shopfront represents an acceptable design within the context of the Upper Norwood Triangle conservation area.
“Whilst pre-application advice was not sought on the prospect of a single storey rear extension, the comments
and issues that were relayed by the officer and the inspector on the recent refusal (11/02775/P) have been
acknowledged and this proposal has carefully considered and reflected these.
(AUGUST 2012: FOXTONS LOSE APPEAL
FOXTONS estate agents have lost their appeal over plans to turn the
former South East restaurant on Westow Hill into another branch.
The report of the inspector who decided the case says the main issues
are the effects of: the proposed shopfront on the character and
appearance of the Upper Norwood Triangle conservation area and the
proposed rear extension on the living conditions of nearby occupiers.
Foxtons had applied to Croydon council to make shopfront alterations
and build a rear extension at the premises at 26 Westow Hill.
The report of the inspector, Simon Warder, says that overall the
overtly modern materials and detailing, and the dominance of the
glazing used in the proposed shopfront would be at odds with the
character of the host building and with the recent improvements to
shopfront design in the area.
“Whilst modern design and materials can be appropriate, in this case,
there is a clear policy preference for traditional design and evidence
that it is being successfully implemented elsewhere along Westow Hill”
“I recognise that the appeal site shopfront is not original and that
the design of other shopfronts along the road varies considerably.
“But a number of nearby shopfronts have been replaced recently with a
notably consistent use of timber, traditionally proportioned fascias
and stall risers, and narrowly subdivided glazing.
“The proposed shopfront would not preserve or enhance the character
and appearance of the conservation area. “Therefore, it would be
contrary to Croydon Replacement Unitary Development Plan (UDP) policy
UC3 which requires traditional features in conservation area (sic) to
be retained and policy UD4 which requires shopfronts to respect the
scale, character, materials and
features of their host building.
“The appellant points out that the shop is boarded up and detracts
from the character of the area. “Further, that the proposed shopfront
would allow a vacant shop unit to be repaired and re-used, introduce a
new business into the area and create an active frontage.
“I accept that these are desirable outcomes. “But it has not been
demonstrated that they could not be achieved with a shopfront design
which is less damaging to the character and appearance of the area.
“Nor has it been demonstrated that a timber shopfront would be
significantly less durable than one constructed in metal and glass.
“The proposed single storey rear extension would extend to the site
boundaries on both sides and to the rear of the property. “All three
sides of the extension would have solid masonry walls and the existing
flat roof would be continued at a height of some 3.15m above ground
“A short distance to the south of the extension is a recently
constructed three storey residential block with facing windows. “To
the east of the proposed extension, is a private amenity area.
“The boundaries on these sides of the site are currently formed by
walls approximately 1.5m high with timber fencing. “This takes the
total height of the boundary enclosure to some 2.2m. “The extension
would, therefore, significantly increase the height and bulk of the
structure on both of these boundaries.
“Consequently, the extension would lead to a material loss of outlook
for the occupiers of the ground floor residential units to the south.
“The appellant argues that the affected windows serve kitchens which
are not habitable rooms. “However, kitchens are likely to be in use
for significant periods and therefore the outlook of occupiers should
be afforded protection.
“The appellant refers to extensions at 22 and 30 Westow Hill. However
these were in place before the block to the south was constructed and
its occupants should be protected from any significant further
reduction in their outlook.
“The appellant’s suggestion of planting to the rear wall of the
extension would not be sufficient to mitigate this impact. “The
extension would also reduce afternoon sunlight and have an overbearing
effect on the occupiers of the amenity area to the east.
“The existing wall on the west boundary of the site is almost as high
as the proposed extension and the neighbouring yard appears to be used
for plant and storage. “As such the proposal would not have a material
occupiers on that side of the site
“Nevertheless the rear extension would not provide satisfactory living
conditions for occupiers to the south and east. “This would be
contrary to the aims of UDP policy UD8 which seeks to protect existing
occupiers from visual intrusion and loss of sunlight” he adds.
The inspector’s report says that following the submission of the
appeal, the appellant lodged further plans showing revisions to the
design of the shopfront including the height of the stall riser and
the number of sub-divisions in the glazing.
“This aspect of the proposal was the subject of considerable third
party interest and the revisions are significant enough that those
parties may reasonably expect to be consulted.
“If I determined the appeal on the basis of the revised plans, the
interests of the third parties may be prejudiced. Therefore, this
appeal decision is based on the plans determined by the council.”)
NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMES TO LONDON ROAD
Croydon council’s regeneration of West Croydon has been endorsed by a housing association which is investing £20m to create 99 new affordable homes on London Road.
Families, couples and single people will be able to move into the new apartments for affordable rent and shared ownership at the disused commercial site, Bedford House, at the junction with Bensham Lane, where building is due to start this summer.
The affordable rent homes will comprise 22 one-bed, 24 two-bed, 15 three-bed and three four-bed apartments. There will be 14 one-bed and 21 two-bed homes for shared ownership accommodation.
Cabinet member for planning, regeneration and transport, Cllr Jason Perry said: “This substantial investment by Affinity Sutton unlocks a commercial site that had been dilapidated for a few years and had a blighting effect on London Road. “Their investment also signifies resounding confidence in the regeneration of London Road.”
Phil Griffiths, regional development director of Affinity Sutton which is investing in the redevelopment said: “We are very pleased to have this opportunity to work with Croydon to provide much needed affordable homes for residents of Croydon. The development will positively contribute to the on-going regeneration of the town.”
Affinity Sutton’s development adds to the significant investment being brought to London Road by the council and its partners, including the GLA and The Mayor of London as part of the West Croydon Investment Programme.
The programme is aimed at boosting the local economy, creating jobs, improving skills and reinvigorating the look of London Road. It includes new and improved pavements and the de-cluttering of streets along London Road and the areas around West Croydon rail station and bus station; highway improvements to help bus journey times between Thornton Heath pond and West Croydon station;
an enterprise hub to support entrepreneurs, jobseekers and to help local people improve their skills; mentoring for young people at risk of exclusion from school;
training shopkeepers who want to improve their business skills; sprucing up shop fronts while maintaining the diverse cultural environment;
spending on health care and education; developing community networks; a co-ordinator to roll out a crime-prevention radio communication system for retailers and to stop fly-tipping; support for business owners and residential landlords affected by the 2011 riots, including helping with planning applications for rebuilding damaged properties. (Source: Croydon council press release)