‘People here are suffering’: Popular mechanic faces eviction from Haggerston railway arch as rent arrears hit £70k

Len Maloney and his JC Motors team

Len Maloney (front row, centre), pictured in 2017 at JC Motors. Photograph: Sarah Ainslie

A much-loved mechanic who has mentored young people in Hackney for years is facing eviction from his railway arch workshop after a standoff over £70,000 in unpaid rent.

Len Maloney, who runs JC Motors in Haggerston, said he needs to pay landlord TTL Properties, a Transport for London (TfL) company, within days.

He fears small businesses are being priced out of communities after seeing his rent more than triple in 2018.

TTL said it might consider enforcement action if it hears nothing by tomorrow, having already extended the deadline.

Transport for London said it has given the firm £45,000 for rent support.

Maloney told the Citizen that, even with the rent break, the business has been left reeling by the pandemic.

He has taken his campaign to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling for more time to pay and for a rethink over the price of renting a railway arch.

He also wants a realistic payment plan to help deal with the arrears.

Maloney’s lease started in 2016 and is set to expire in August.

The repairs expert was one of the founders of Guardians of the Arches – an organisation fighting for small businesses – and he is a member of the East End Trades Guild (EETG), which is backing his campaign.

In an open letter to Mayor Khan, Maloney recalls meeting the politician at a Question Time event just before the pandemic.

He goes on: “You agreed that the issue of affordable rent is one of the biggest issues facing small businesses in London.

“I remember that day and the feeling of hope that I had from your response so I am called to write to you now to ask for your support.

“TfL is demanding that I pay £70,000 in rent arrears because they tripled my rent in 2018. If I do not pay this amount in total, TfL expects me to vacate my arch and leave Hackney.”

He added: “I have been providing work opportunities and apprenticeships to young people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds since 2006.

“Often these young people were losing their way before they found my business. They were misunderstood at school and needed a mentor to support them.”

Fighting for survival: industry under the arches from Hazel Sheffield on Vimeo.

Maloney said he was given his chance when he walked into the motor business and was taken under the wing of then owner Joe Chee.

He now tries to support those in need of a break and is involved with EETG’s cultural group, which supports Black and other global majority-owned businesses in getting access to space in London.

He encourages people to go to college and employs one apprentice at the garage alongside another mechanic.

“I just imagine myself walking along many years ago, wondering what I am going to do with my life. For someone to walk in and to help them out is very powerful.”

Hackney Council staff have sat in on his meetings with TfL as he tries to hammer out a deal for paying the rent.

He said he has been working on an affordable payment plan.

His case has also been taken up by London Assembly chair and mayoral hopeful Andrew Boff, who served as a Conservative councillor in Queensbridge ward.

Maloney fears other businesses could be in the same boat and explained that some arches in Hackney have been empty for more than three years.

More than 900 people signed his 2015 petition calling for more affordable rent.

“Seven years later, there is still no affordable rent policy in place from TfL and we are right back where we started.”

Maloney’s letter to Khan continues: “The way people in Hackney are suffering is wrong. All of my neighbours say they are struggling to pay the rent that TfL is asking for now.

“How can TfL justify its policy to maximise profits at the cost of damaging small businesses, their families and their communities?”

Dan Lovett, director of asset management for TTL Properties, said: “We always work with our tenants to help support their businesses however we can. Throughout the pandemic, we provided rent credit to our tenants, including JC Motors, so they could manage the impact on their businesses.”

He added: “We have been trying to work with JC Motors for more than a year to find a solution to the increasing rent arrears, but all our offers of assistance, such as payment plans and alternative locations with lower rents, have not been accepted.

“Given this, and with growing arrears as a result of continuing failure to pay the rent, we have asked JC Motors to confirm whether the significant outstanding debt can be paid off or whether instead the business is willing to move to a more affordable property elsewhere on TfL’s estate.”

The company extended the deadline for JC Motors to respond until 9 June and will consider its next steps, including possible enforcement notice, if it does not hear back.

A TfL spokesman said: “Any decision about enforcement action will be taken carefully and after further consultation with JC Motors about its financial position.”