LONDON: Landlord Fined for Renting Room Only Accessible On All Fours

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

A flat of restricted access cost landord £3,000 in fines and costs.

Many people crawl into bed at the end of a long day, but tenants in a northLondon house had to crawl on all fours to access their rented room.

Barnet council has taken the landlord of a house in Sunningfields Road, Hendon, to court after discovering he was renting out a room that could not be accessed standing up. The head height along the course of the staircase was between 0.7m (2ft 3in) and 1.2m (3ft 11in) and the door to the room was also reduced in size.

The council issued a prohibition order against Yaakov Marom in February 2012, banning him from letting the second-floor room. Environmental health officers were concerned that the poor access could impede tenants’ escape in the event of a fire.

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

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 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 minuscule flat in the borough after it had received international press coverage.

Another property that is available for rent on Sunningfields Road looks as if it would be a tight squeeze for prospective tenants, though there is no suggestion it breaches the law. A studio advertised for £175 a week or £760 a month on the property website Zoopla includes a single bed suspended from the ceiling by metal chains and 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 (and no fridge, as far as the pictures show).

The room also contains a sofa and coffee table. There are pictures of a toilet and shower, but it is not clear whether these are exclusive to the studio or shared.

Marketed 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 the company has not responded to an online request for further details.

– The Guardian