Sadiq Khan came under pressure to return donations given to his mayoral campaign today after it emerged he received thousands of pounds from a property firm which “put tenants’ lives at risk”.
The Labour candidate, who has pledged to crack down on rogue landlords, accepted £10,000 from a property group based in Manchester which was prosecuted and fined more than £14,000 for breaching tenant safety rules. He received a further £19,900 from a developer in Croydon who was linked to an expensive legal battle against council plans for a landlord licensing scheme.
Mr Khan has promised to work with town halls to create similar landlord vetting schemes across the capital. He also wants to set up a public website which “names and shames” landlords who have been prosecuted for housing-related offences.
The revelations will be embarrassing for the Tooting MP as he has made getting a better deal for renters a key plank of his campaign — and has described the mayoral race as a “referendum” on housing. The Tories called on the Labour hopeful, who is ahead of their candidate Zac Goldsmith in the polls, to return the donations.
Paul Scully, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam, said: “This hypocrisy from Sadiq Khan shows he can’t be trusted to deliver any of his promises. He said he’d take a stand against rogue landlords, even as he took the cash. If Khan had a shred of principle he would return these donations.”
According to the MP’s Register of Interests, Mr Khan received £10,000 from a firm called Inv1.0 Ltd, which is a subsidiary of MCR Property Group.
CostDesign Ltd and UK Real Estate Developments Ltd, which are part of the same group, were fined more than £14,000 at Manchester magistrates’ court in August 2011 after they admitted failing to meet safety standards.
Council surveyors found serious breaches of fire safety rules at a 55-flat student housing development, including a lack of self-closing fire doors and external wall fire barriers to stop flames spreading. Windows required for smoke ventilation were said to be completely obscured by scaffolding, while fire escape routes passed through a building site. After the hearing, local Labour councillors said the lives of students had been put at substantial risk.
Speaking at the launch of his manifesto, Mr Khan said: “Most landlords treat their tenants well, but I’m determined to name and shame the rogue ones who break the rules.”
A spokesman for MCR Property Group said: “On this one occasion several years ago a contractor let us down and subsequently he remedied the situation and the tenants, who we rehoused during that period, were moved back in. We have got thousands of tenants all over the country and not had any other problems.” Mr Khan also received donations totalling £19,900 from AA Homes and Housing Limited for his mayoral campaign. The firm’s managing director, Dr Anwar Ansari, was a member of the Croydon Property Forum, which launched legal action against Croydon council’s borough-wide licensing scheme last summer.
The group argued that a blanket approach was contrary to central Government policy and there had been inadequate consultation, but its High Court bid was rejected. Under its scheme, the council assesses if a landlord is a “fit and proper person” before deciding whether to grant a licence. It aims to tackle the anti-social behaviour of some private tenants, and improve standards of accommodation.
Dr Asani said: “There was no objection per se to the consideration of a selective scheme targeting only those parts of the borough where there was tangible evidence of anti-social behaviour, rather than seeking to penalise all landlords and developers with hefty fees and potential penalties which myself and many others regarded as a stealth tax on business initiative and development within the borough.”
Labour insiders said Mr Khan was not expected to return the donations. A spokesman for his campaign said: “The campaign accepts donations from a variety of sources, some larger donations from individuals or organisations, and a lot of smaller donations. All donations are made in accordance with Electoral Commission rules.”