London Landlord fined for renting flat that could only be entered on all fours

Alice In Wonderland Large

Tenants would need to be less than 2 feet 4 inches tall to walk to the Hendon flat’s front door

Many people crawl into bed at the end of a long day but tenants in a north London house were forced to crawl on all fours to access their rented room.

Barnet council took the landlord of a house in Sunningfields Road, Hendon, to court after discovering he was renting a room which could not be accessed standing up. The head height along the course of the staircase was between 0.7m (27.5 inches) and 1.2m (47 inches) high and the door to the room was also reduced in size.

Even a three-year-old child of average height would not be able to walk upright all the way up the stairs.

Barnet council first issued a prohibition order against landlord Yaakov Marom in February 2012 which banned him from letting the second floor room of the property. Environmental health officers were concerned the poor access could impede the tenants’ escape in the event of a fire.

But Marom failed to comply with the order and when council officers visited the house with police officers in September last year they found the room was still in use and being rented by a couple for £420 a month.

Earlier this month at Willesden magistrates court Marom pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the prohibition order. He was ordered to pay a £1,500 fine, £1,420 in costs and a victim surcharge of £120, a total of £3,040.

Councillor Tom Davey, chairman of the housing committee at Barnet council, said: “At the very least tenants have the right to expect that the accommodation they are renting is safe.

“Barnet council is keen to work with landlords and help them to provide safe accommodation. However, those who exploit tenants for financial gain will not be tolerated and the appropriate action will be taken.”

Rented property is subject to strict rules on size and standards, but as demand from tenants has taken off, some landlords have cut corners to cash in.

Councils are able to take rogue landlords to court, but usually rely on members of the public to report illegal properties, and many tenants are unfamiliar with their rights.

Recently, Islington council stepped in to inspect a tiny flat in the borough after it had received international press coverage.

Another property available for rent on Sunningfields Road also looks like it would be a tight squeeze for tenants.

The studio is being advertised for £175 a week or £760 a month on the property website Zoopla.

Photos of the room show a single bed suspended from the ceiling by metal chains and precariously perched on two wardrobes. Within reaching distance of the bed is a “kitchenette” which consists of a microwave, two cooking rings, a small sink and two cupboards.

Marketing by Pioneer Estate Agency, in north Finchley, the studio has been viewed on Zoopla 346 times in the past 30 days. No one answered the phone at Pioneer when the Guardian called and it hasn’t responded to an online request for further details.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Emma Lunn, for theguardian.com on Friday 22nd August 2014 11.45 Europe/London

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