ITV News London Reporter Daniel Henry speaks to garage owner Len Maloney who is fighting to keep his business open in a Hackney railway arch
A Hackney mechanic faces eviction from a Haggeston railway arch after falling £70,000 into arrears when his annual rent bill more than trebled.
Len Maloney was left struggling to meet the business rent after the landlord, Transport for London, increased it from £22,000 to £72,000 in 2018.
The steep increase was exacerbated by the pandemic and now Mr Maloney is faced with a £70,000 bill he is unable to afford. He said if he is not able to pay this amount, TfL expects him "to vacate my arch and leave Hackney" once his lease is up in August.
Mr Maloney told ITV News London he is paying what he can afford, and the final payment deadline was making him "very stressed".
Mr Maloney's customers are equally as unhappy with the prospect of losing him.
One told us: "He's been here for ages. Women trust him, and a lot of women don't trust other garages. He's got all local people round here, he's got people from out of the area that come here as he's recommended by other people as well. He's a good man. He's an honest man and they're just trying to rip the life out of him.
Another customer said: "There's only so many breweries you can put in railway arches. And I think there seems to be a lot of them and I appreciate you've got to find a use for them. But businesses like this [Mr Maloney's] have been using them for a long, long time very successfully. And I think it seems a shame to lose them simply because of money."
In an attempt to stave off eviction, Mr Maloney, who has worked at JC Motors since the late 1990s, has written an open letter to the mayor, Sadiq Khan, calling for him to intervene to find a sustainable solution to keep his business going.
Mr Maloney fears small businesses are being priced out of communities and that the rent hikes are "damaging small businesses, their families and their communities".
In the letter, he told Mr Khan: "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."
Mr Maloney is a founding member of Guardians of the Arches – an organisation fighting for small businesses.
In his open letter to Mr Khan, Mr Maloney recalled meeting the mayor at a People's Question Time event in Battersea in 2020.
“You agreed that the issue of affordable rent is one of the biggest issues facing small businesses in London," he said.
“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.”
TfL said they have supported small businesses through the pandemic and have offered a range of options to help people like Len Maloney.
They also say if he does not pay up, they will consider enforcement action.
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