Peter Rachman

If you want to describe an unpleasant aspect of the property rental business, Rachmanism is the word. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as the exploitation and intimidation of tenants by unscrupulous landlords.

It was a Royal Borough landlord who gave his name to the word. Perec or Peter Rachman came to England during the war as a refugee from Poland. He died a millionaire in 1962.

Rachman started work in an estate agency in Shepherds Bush but soon branched out on his own to exploit the post-war housing shortage.

From 1957 onward he bought up many run down old houses in Paddington and North Kensington, using loans from his building society.

To maximise his profits he wanted to get rid of sitting tenants and relet the properties at much higher rents. He developed an effective three step approach to dealing with "unprofitable tenants".

  1. tenants were offered a modest sum to leave
  2. tenants' lives were made intolerable with all night music and parties in the rooms next door
  3. Rachman's henchmen would go in and cut off electricity and water and break locks and lavatories

It was an effective strategy. The new tenants were usually immigrant families from the West Indies who had nowhere else to go and had to pay extortionate rents for tiny squalid rooms.

By 1959, a special police squad was set up to investigate Rachman who by then lived in Hampstead and travelled in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.

Detectives discovered a network of at least 33 Rachman-owned companies controlling his property empire. They also uncovered his sideline, prostitution. Rachman was prosecuted twice for brothel-keeping.

In 1960 he suddenly disposed of his Notting Hill property interests. Whether this was because the police were creating too much heat or he had made more money than he knew what to do with is unclear.

Famous/infamous residents

Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Home | News | At your service | Local life | top of page
Legal notices | Copyright notices | Comment on this page

Copyright © 1998-2006 The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea