A tenant pretending to be a landlord has been ordered to pay more than £21,000 after carving up five family homes he rented into “unsafe” bedsits.

Andrius Cikanavicius had converted the properties into houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) without a licence or permission from the landlord or managing agent, putting the lives of at least 40 vulnerable residents at risk.

Redbridge Council enforcement officers were “horrified” when they found rooms that could not be opened from the inside without keys – delaying or preventing an escape in the event of a fire.

Other serious breaches of fire safety regulations included a lack of interlinked smoke alarms. Properties did not have fire doors, fire blankets or fire-resistant plasterboard fitted on the underside of the staircase.

The houses were overcrowded and without adequate shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Cikanavicius, from Dagenham, was issued with fines totalling £14,600, including £13,300 for fire safety breaches, after appearing before Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on June 21.

Redbridge Council prosecuted him over his failure to comply with licensing conditions.

He was also ordered to pay £7,000 in costs and a further £120 victim surcharge.

Cllr Farah Hussain, cabinet member for housing, said: “It’s appalling that Mr Cikanavicius would put vulnerable people at risk of death, simply for his own profit. This case has exposed a serious abuse of licensing regulations and a man who thought he could charge people hundreds of pounds a month to live in a death trap.

“We are serious and determined about improving standards in the private rented sector and we will continue to knock on the door of all suspected HMOs and unlicensed properties to root out rogue operators and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”

The council has recently used its powers under housing and planning law to issue 150 fines against illegal operators as an alternative to prosecution.

Licensing is mandatory for all HMO’s, as well the 79 per cent of the private rental sector in Redbridge covered by the council’s selective licensing scheme.

Property owners or agents can apply for a licence on our website.

Tenants can also check for rogue landlords for free online as part of the Mayor of London’s Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents Checker.

Click here to access the checker: https://www.london.gov.uk/rogue-landlord-checker.