TWO landlords who put profits over people to rent their two-bedroom flat in Tower Hamlets to as many as 22 people, have pleaded guilty to nine offences under the Housing Act 2004.
Tenant Mizanur Rahman, 41, died in a fire at the flat in Shadwell on 5 March 2023, caused by a faulty lithium-ion e-bike battery which was charging at the time.
His death sparked an investigation by Tower Hamlets Council into landlords Sofina Begum, 50, and Aminur Rahman, 53, who owned the fourth-floor flat in Maddocks House.
The husband and wife appeared at Thames Magistrates Court on Tuesday 28 November and pleaded guilty to a total of nine offences under the Housing Act 2004. The case has been committed to Snaresbrook Crown Court for confiscation and sentencing. The next hearing is due on 3 January 2024.
Raj Mistry, Interim Corporate Director of Communities, Tower Hamlets Council, said:
“Our thoughts and prayers are again with Mizanur Rahman’s family and friends. His tragic death and the appalling overcrowded conditions where he lived shocked us all.
“Today’s court case sends the message that we will not tolerate landlords who risk the lives of our residents in our borough. We will act against landlords like Sofina Begum and Aminur Rahman, who put money over the safety and welfare of their tenants.”
Sofina Begum pleaded guilty to six charges, including allowing the premises to be overcrowded, failures to comply with licence conditions, carry out inspections and have a valid gas safety certificate, and failure to provide the Council with requested documentation.
Aminur Rahman pleaded guilty to three charges including, allowing the premises to be overcrowded, failure to comply with licence conditions and for failing to provide the Council with requested documentation.
The Council asked the court to commit the pair to Crown Court with a view to obtaining a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. If granted, the Crown Court will determine the extent of their benefit from their criminal conduct and order repayment of up to that amount.
Tower Hamlets Council has made it a priority to clamp down on rogue landlords operating in the borough.
In October, Cabinet approved plans to renew an additional licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation, and extend it to previously excluded areas, including Weavers, Whitechapel, and Spitalfields and Banglatown. These new rules will come into force on 1 April 2024 for five years.
The Council has also helped 299 renters, who were living in unlicensed properties, claim back £1,043,047 in rent repayment orders (RRO).
Following the fire, Tower Hamlets Council and the London Fire Brigade launched their #ChargeSafe campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of e-bike and e-scooter batteries.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, the Council called for the Government to do more to tackle the increasing number of fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters.
Since the campaign launched in September, the council has found and destroyed 81 imported and unsafe lithium batteries in local shops.
Notes to Editor
- The coroner for Inner North London ruled that the cause of Mr Rahman’s death was smoke inhalation. The e-bike from which the battery came, which was owned by another occupant of the flat, had been heavily modified, notably including a retro-fitted additional battery cage and motor.
- The coroner’s prevention of future deaths report.
- Tower Hamlets Council has three licensing schemes for private rented properties; selective, additional and mandatory.
Posted on Thursday 30th November 2023