The Chronicle can reveal that an NHS surgeon rented out this dangerous, damp and mouldy house in Thornton Heath to a family of four – including two young children.
Dr Samir Sakka, an orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospital Lewisham and Ms Besarta Zeneli, who jointly own the house in Bensham Lane now face a ban from letting any others properties in Croydon. It is unclear of the connection between the two but a judge ordered they each pay a total of £4,096.20 in fines, court costs and victim surcharge.
Croydon Council inspectors found a number of serious hazards when they visited the house last year, including no electricity, a kitchen strewn with rubble, partially-collapsed ceiling plasterwork, and significant damp and mould.
At Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (September 5), District Judge Susan Holdham found Mr Samir Sakka and Ms Besarta Zeneli guilty in their absence for failing to obey an improvement notice to upgrade the property issued by Croydon Council under the Housing Act 2004.
Croydon Council’s property licensing team will now begin the formal process of banning Mr Sakka, 58, of Nelson Road in Wimbledon, and Ms Zeneli, 27, of Leigham Avenue in Streatham, from holding a property licence to let to Croydon tenants in future.
They will have to either sell the Bensham Lane property or appoint a managing agent to become legally responsible for the house’s repair and tenants’ living conditions.
The council, which carried out over £22,000 worth of urgent repairs to the flat in default and billed the landlords, will also begin the process of ensuring that Mr Sakka and Ms Zeneli repay this bill.
Using inspection powers strengthened in 2015 through the council’s selective licensing scheme, officers first visited the property on 28 September 2016 after housing enforcement colleagues had received a complaint about the landlord from the tenants, a family of four that included two girls aged under five.
Council officers then formally ordered the landlords to repair the house and then accompany inspectors on a return visit. When officers returned to view the property, the landlords did not attend and the repairs had not been carried out.
The council then began the process of making the house safer and repairing it in the landlords’ absence, and then billed them with the £22,000 cost. In later discussions under formal caution, the pair claimed to the council that their workmen had been denied access to the property.
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, said: “No family should live in such appalling conditions, which is why we stepped in after these private landlords failed to do the responsible thing and fix the house.
“While most private Croydon landlords are good, this case underlines why we will continue to prosecute the minority of people who fail to protect their tenants.”
Tenants of private houses or flats in Croydon with major concerns about the state of their property can contact the council via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8726 6103, available Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm.