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A tenant posing as a landlord converted five family homes that he had rented into unsafe bedsits, resulting in at least 40 residents being put at risk.
Andrius Cikanavicius converted the five properties into Houses in Multiple Occupation without a licence or permission from the landlord or managing agent. Then posing as the landlord of the houses, he rented out the bedsits to vulnerable tenants.
Redbridge Council enforcement officers found rooms at the illegal HMOs that could not be opened from the inside without keys – delaying or preventing an escape in the event of a fire.
Other serious breaches of fire safety regulations included a lack of interlinked smoke alarms. Properties did not have fire doors, fire blankets or fire-resistant plasterboard fitted on the underside of the staircase.
The houses converted by the tenant posing as landlord were also found to be overcrowded and lacked adequate shared facilities.
Once the council found that the tenant was posing as landlord, they went on to prosecute him, and he was issued with fines totalling £14,600 – including £13,300 for fire safety breaches – after appearing before Barkingside Magistrates’ Court.
In addition, Cikanavicius, from Dagenham, was ordered to pay £7,000 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
Cllr Farah Hussain, cabinet member for housing and homelessness, said: ‘It’s appalling that Mr Cikanavicius would put vulnerable people at risk of death, simply for his own profit.
‘This case has exposed a serious abuse of licensing regulations and a man who thought he could charge people hundreds of pounds a month to live in a death trap.
‘We are serious and determined about improving standards in the private rented sector and we will continue to knock on the door of all suspected HMOs and unlicensed properties to root out rogue operators and ensure they feel the full force of the law.’