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Convicted landlord receives 500K in housing benefit payments despite ban

A rogue landlord deemed unfit to rent out property in the north London borough of Brent in 2015 has since received more than £500,000 in housing benefit payments from the same council that banned him.

Bernard McGowan, a repeatedly convicted landlord who owns a £30m property portfolio and was convicted six times under the Housing Act between 2014 and 2017, failed Brent council’s “fit and proper” test in 2015.

The decision meant that McGowan was barred from directly renting out houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) across Brent, or any home in eight of the borough’s wards where landlords specifically require a licence.


But a freedom of information (FoI) request made by the Guardian, revealed how Brent has continued to pay McGowan public money for renting out properties since it banned him.

In October, a Guardian and ITV News investigation revealed how a string of supposedly banned landlords were continuing to rent out properties, while the government’s new rogue landlord database was empty six months after its launch.

Now the discovery that Brent is directly paying public money to a landlord its own officers labelled a “rogue” is, according to The Guardian, the latest example of “the ineffective regulations designed to police the private rented sector’s worst offenders”.

The payments have included publicly funded rents for McGowan's properties in wards where no landlord is allowed to operate without a licence, meaning the legislation should prevent McGowan from directly receiving rents for homes in those areas.

Jacky Peacock, a director of the tenants’ charity Advice4Renters, which has helped residents bring cases against McGowan, commented: “I simply despair. This is yet another example of one part of the council not speaking to another. Of course it has to be wrong for a landlord who cannot be defined as a ‘fit and proper manager’ to be receiving the rent. We will never see meaningful regulatory improvements in private renting until there is a joined-up, council-wide approach.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the circumstances have existed which should have created a duty for Brent to serve an IMO [interim management order] on most if not all of McGowan’s properties.”

The Guardian points out that under the Housing Act, a council has the duty to impose an IMO on certain properties, in order to protect the occupiers or to take “steps the authority thinks appropriate with a view to the proper management of the house”. That includes unlicensed houses that cannot be licensed because they do not meet the licence conditions, as well as houses where the licence has been revoked.

McGowan, one of the country’s most notorious rogue landlords, was fined more than £100,000 for property offences in 2017.

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Poll: Do you think the regulations designed to police the private rented sector’s worst offenders are ineffective?


  • Just Mogler

    Regulations are sufficient however white collar council workers are not using the regulations. Q.? probably cash strapped and can't afford the staff to take on the responsibility. Usual response!


    High enough fines could make this self funding (like parking fines etc.) but it's an easy life for most council employees who blame "austerity and cut backs" every time they fail to do what we're paying them for.

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    • 22 January 2019 17:46 PM

    Good LL are fed up with the unfair competition from rogue LL.
    If I knew where a rogue LL was operating I would have no hesitation in grassing them up.
    Indeed I am about to do this very soon due to a LL operating AirBnB in breach of the Freeholders lease.
    There are about 2 million illegal tenancies due to rogue LL.
    Getting rid of these would mean good LL could jack up rents to realistic levels as the true amount of rental property will be substantially reduced to that of a far more reduced amount of legal lettings.
    Rogue LL are a plague on all of us.
    I believe that the only way to get rid of rogue LL is for National LL licensing at about £50 per property for a 5 year licence.
    Any LL who did not have a Licence number would not be allowed to market that property for letting.
    Any LL that was unlicensed would face their particular property being CP.
    I can't see any good LL not being licensed.
    Apparently though Scotland has had this LL licensing and yet many LL are not licensed.
    I would have thought that the threat of CP would scare the s### out of LL to make them obtain a Licence for each property.

    There is no need for a licence to be anymore than say £100 every 5 years.
    Apparently even in Wales which has the perfectly fair and acceptable RSW there are tens of thousands of LL who still aren't licensed.
    I find it most bizarre that the authotities are seemingly unable to identify properties which are being let out.
    Surely some joined up thinking!
    I would first deal with all those tenants in receipt of HB.
    It would be very simple for the DWP to require the HB claimant provide the LL licence no for that particular property.
    Once all the HB LL have been dealt with then other LL can be dealt with.

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    Hi Paul
    I have continually asked RSW if they are proactive in seeking out rogue landlords.
    I know the places where there are likely to be a massive concentration of them, both in my area and others.
    I get the same answer every time, in that they are totally reliant on being informed by tenants or members of the public.
    I have pointed out to them that it is unlikely that tenants (who would not be eligible for licensed properties) would report the rogues as they would be likely to be made homeless.
    Also, the rogues are renting for 'cash in hand' and if they were to register, then they would come to the attention of the HMRC.
    Like you, it 'makes my blood boil' to think that I am doing everything right and paying my taxes, whilst these people are getting away with it. It sometimes makes me wonder who is the fool?

    • 23 January 2019 09:53 AM

    H! Yes we are certainly the fools!!
    Unfortunately the sanctions are totally inadequate so that anhy failyre to lixence charges are just considered a CODB if they are discovered.
    I would also attack things through the LA route.
    That is any LA advertising a property without the LL licence no would be considered as illegally trading and should face sanction vy Trading Standards to cease trading if they continue to offer unlicensed properties.
    Just that should be sufficient for most LA to take on any properties without a licence no.
    Then we could have RM and zoopla etc warned not to accept any adverts without a verified LL license no.
    Most LL have no problem with licensing but they do have a problem with the cost.
    A driving licence costs about £80 as is a passport.
    So £100 seems a fair price
    I would willingly pay this etc.
    I'm afraid that there is no real willingness to eradicate crimibal LL.
    There isn't much good LL can do apart from vending over and taking it up the a###!!!
    So all the mealy mouthed words about how terrible it is that all these rogue LL carry on with impunity are just so many platitudes.
    I don't know of any other sector which is so populated by criminals.
    You would have thought that with property which doesn't tend to move around a lit!!! should be easy to detect being involved in illegal lettings.
    I believe a cheap National LL licensing system should be started.
    At leadt then there would be a base of fully recorded LL.
    Then all the ithers can be gone after.
    But I appreviate that what I am suggesting is in cuckooland!!
    It just seems that so much lip- service is given towards this criminal LL problem.

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    In Scotland the Council doesn't even remind you when your licence is due to expire and seems to do nothing to track down rogue landlords. I had an unlicensed landlord in the same block who refused to pay his share of common repairs but the council don't seem interested. However, if I forgot to renew my licence........Good landlords are like drivers - easy pickings, but the rogues still get away with it every time!

  • icon

    I don't have any properties in licence areas and i don't get involved with HMOs, so i have no experience here, however as others have said i would welcome nationwide licencing just so long as the fees were fair, max £100 for 5yr term.


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