Islington Council has successfully prosecuted a letting agent for issuing ‘sham licences’ in the first prosecution of its kind.
Green Live Ltd was fined £20,500, including compensation for the two victims of the sham licences, after they were reported to the council’s (housing) preventions and options team.
The letting agent issued the licences instead of tenancy agreements. They were designed to make the occupiers believe they had no right to challenge eviction or be given legally defined notice periods or minimum occupancy term periods.
The occupiers also did not benefit from the statutory deposit protection scheme because the agreement was not a tenancy.
The victims of the sham licences first contacted the (housing) preventions and options team at Islington Council in 2016 because they were not able to recover their deposits.
The team then contacted trading standards to alert it to concerns about the sham licences issued to the victims, which triggered an investigation culminating in prosecution.
Green Live Ltd pleaded guilty to two offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 relating to the issuing of licences to occupy where the fact gave rise to a tenancy.
The company also pleaded guilty to a further offence under the regulations of using a letting agency association logo where it was not a member.
Green Live Ltd was fined £11,000 for the two sham licences issued and £5000 for the misuse of a logo. The two victims of the sham licences were awarded compensation totalling £3000 and Islington Council was awarded costs of £1500.
‘We want everyone in Islington to have a decent, secure home, and to be protected from illegal and precarious housing conditions,’ said Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development.
‘This case, which we believe is the first of its kind in the country, shows we will take action where letting agents break the law and issue sham licences.
‘We will not tolerate illegal practices like sham licences in Islington and if we become aware of any similar cases we will investigate with a view to prosecution.’