Landlords posing as a ‘lettings club’ to avoid strict shared house licensing rules have been fined thousands of pounds.
Lifestyle Club LSC Ltd was just a way to ‘curtail the rights of tenants’ said Judge Nicholas Rimmer at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court.
Director Tiina Lehtla, 30, offered her tenants club membership and licences to occupy their homes rather than tenancy agreements, which were ‘entirely contrived’ arrangements, said the judge.
The company and Lehtla were in court with Assad Ghafoor, 48, owner of a property rented out by The Lifestyle Club.
The company and Lehtla faced three charges each relating to failing to act on statutory housing notices issued by Camden Council. Ghafoor faced two similar offences.
Lifestyle Club must pay fines, costs and surcharges totalling £22,299. The defendants did not attend the hearing.
“I consider the defendants to have high culpability and this was a case of medium harm based on risk to the tenants because of the poor state of the two properties,” said the judge.
“This was a cost-cutting exercise by the defendants. They did not apply for licences to avoid an inspection which would have resulted in expense to bring the properties up to standard.
“Defects in the properties included inadequate fire detection, poor quality partition walls, no kitchen door, dampness and mould.
“The tenants were from abroad and the most in need. They were given membership agreements instead of tenancy agreements to try and curtail their rights.
“The obstruction of the local authority by not returning the statutory notices was deliberate and a commercial decision to try and frustrate the investigation by environmental health officers.”
Councillor Meric Apak, cabinet member for better homes at Camden Council, said: “The club residents living at these properties signed up to did not offer an exclusive, luxury experience – its occupants were living in illegal, dangerous and unhealthy condition.”