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Rogue Cally landlord up to old tricks, gets caught out, and is finally nailed

June 6, 2014
kember-street-flat

This tiny “studio” flat at Kember Street, advertised online by estate agent, prompted Islington Council to immediately investigate.

The case of a tiny flat offered for rent will finally “nail” a landlord who has previously “wriggled off the hook” of enforcement, say Cally Labour Councillors.

Notorious landlord, Andrew Panayi, has hit the headlines after trying to rent one of the smallest bedsitter flats ever seen in London. City-wide and national news organisations seized on the story of a tiny bedsit letting at 1 Kember Street on the Cally Road for £737 per month. The reports appeared in the Independent, the Standard, the Guardian and in the local papers.

On Twitter and Facebook, the story went viral (as they say) with comments like “this picture says it all about London’s crazy housing situation”.

But to Islington residents, this was another chapter in the continuing battle against a landlord who has turned the Cally neighbourhood into a byword for racketeer landlordism.

1 Kember Street mattress

Mattresses stored in a hallway posing fire hazard and escape route obstacle.

Islington Council immediately sent-in an inspection team to check if it met housing condition rules and to investigate a probable breach in planning permission.  The Council inspectors have found that Kember Street contains other, similar, sized rooms. Prohibition notices have been served and a planning enforcement case opened. Fire Brigade investigators will also be checking for breaches in safety rules.

Local Councillors have been going after Mr Panayi for over 3 years. He shot to fame almost 2 years ago after boasting on a TV programme that he “built first, ask for permission later”. The TV documentary can be seen online in two separate sections: click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

At a very large and very angry meeting in July 2012, around 200 local residents took the Council to task for letting him get away with planning infringements on a colossal scale. At that meeting, elected Councillors and senior officials pledged that Islington Council would bring thorough enforcement action.

The Council hired extra enforcement officers and in Autumn 2012 began extensive investigations into Mr Panayi’s properties which uncovered dozens of unuathorised developments. But many of his unpermitted flats and bedsits had been converted more than 4 years prior to investigation. A bizarre loophole in planning law has meant that many of these substandard and unpermitted developments were therefore deemed legal.

A bicycle left in a hallway obstructing the fire exit door.

A bicycle left in a hallway obstructing the fire exit door.

When the pictures of the 1 Kember Street room became public, Islington Council moved swiftly to inspect the premises and immediately issued a prohibition order against using the room (and others like it) for residential purposes. The building consists of up to 40 rooms of differing sizes all of which are now being inspected by the Council.

Despite Mr Panayi’s assertion that he has planning permission, it seems clear that he has made significant changes to what was originally student hostel-type accodomadation. Previously there had been a number of small study bedrooms served by communal kitchen areas down a hallway. Instead Mr Panayi has installed kitchen units into bedrooms thereby making them self-contained.

It is very likely these changes were made relatively recently. In February 2011 Mr Panayi submitted drawings of the ‘existing’ internal layout when he submitted a planning application to add a further 2 storeys to the building. He was refuse. But those drawings demonstrate the building was inits student hostel arrangement at that time. Those drawings can be seen here: (first floor and mezzanine) and (second floor).

The rooms are arranged over the 1st and 2nd floors of the building which has the Co-op supermarket at ground floor level. In a further extraordinary admission, Mr Panayi has owned-up to a communal roof terrace for the building which also does not have planning permission.

Local Councillors have requested that the fire brigade re-inspects the premises after photographs emerged which showed hazards in hallways that could might impede emergency exits.

Cally Councillor Paul Convery comments “It is incredible that this landlord continues to charge extortionate rents for sub-standard accomodation in buildings where he does not have full planning permission. Despite being previously caught-out on a huge scale, Mr Panayi keeps flouting a regulatory system which is designed to ensure minimum standards of living accomodation, safety and amenity in our neighbourhood. The breaches of planning control and housing standards at Kember Street are absolutely shocking. Mr Panayi has wriggled through a legal loophole in the past. But this case will finally nail him.”

Related links to the actions of this landlord, and the Council’s response, are at:

Enforcement action underway against multiple bedsits and over crammed flats on Caledonian Road (June 2012)

Council steps up enforcement action against build first, ask later Cally landlord (July 2012)

Enforcement blitz against planning and licensing breaches on the Cally (November 2012)

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue Cartwright permalink
    June 6, 2014 4:40 pm

    Well done Islington Council for acting quickly following the publication of the photographs. However, what can the Council (or other authorities) do to prevent him developing any other properties in our area and turning Caledonian ward into a slum and increasing the already high workload of planning officers and the fire brigade? Are there any laws or penalties which can prevent him from being a landlord and if so how soon can this be enforced? It’s imperative that we rid our area of this greedy man who clearly cares nothing for the law.

  2. Andrew permalink
    June 7, 2014 12:41 pm

    40 flats x 700 per month = £336K per year for this. Wow. The penalty needs to be enough to dissuade more people doing this. How does the council currently monitor unauthorised development? I suspect if it wasn’t for the news coverage, the council would not have known about it. And I also suspect the council is only going to be able to nail him on a technicality – that he submitted plans within the last four years still showing the place as student accommodation, whereas the conversion probably happened more than four years ago which would make it impossible for the council to take enforcement.

  3. Paul Brown permalink
    June 8, 2014 1:01 pm

    I recently met a woman who told me she lives in a room about 9-10 metres square, but I don’t know which borough it’s in. Is this legal? What would you do about it if she lives in Islington? Would you A force the Landlord to evict her, then not let out that room by itself again, and that would be the end of your involvement? B force the Landlord to evict her,then not let out that room again, as well as your council arranging for her to have alternative accommodation? I was going to tell you roughly how old she is and her employment status, but why should I, because these are both excuses for discrimination! Based on what I’ve read before, it would be option A. After this, she may have to leave London altogether.

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