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Dawn Raids: A Look At The Underbelly Of Britain’S Housing Crisis

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Nothing new to this site, but good to see it getting coverage on an EA forum.

Written by: Charlie Stong | August 20, 2015

This week I joined Newham council’s taskforce to experience at first hand just part of the massive housing crisis which is engulfing certain corners of Britain, and pockets of the capital in particular. I was horrified by what I was to see.


We have all heard the tales of 20-plus people living in one small terrace house, but to see it with my own eyes this week made it all the more shocking.

Getting back on the Tube at East Ham for the journey home to the safety of my two-bed Islington flat, rented off a perfectly scrupulous housing trust, I felt extremely lucky and a deep sense of sadness that people just a few miles away were living in such cramped, filthy conditions.

And not only do they live in these conditions, but many appear to accept them as their fate.

Most of Newham’s private landlords are, like the vast majority across the country, law-abiding landlords who take care of their properties and their tenants.

But others – in some cases, helped by letting agents – are also exploiting their tenants, cramming vast numbers under one roof to pocket as much cash as they possibly can, with not a care in the world for the people who are left to pick up the pieces.

Many things about the properties I saw on Tuesday morning while accompanying Newham council’s private rented sector licensing team on one of their twice-weekly early-morning door-knocking operations, were completely normal.

There were children’s scooters, linen spinning in washing machines, crockery draining by kitchen sinks, and the remains of breakfast left over after hurried occupants had departed for the morning commute.

Other things I saw, however, were horrific. Light fittings hanging dangerously off walls, broken smoke alarms left unmended, and electric wires trailing hazardously from room to room.

And then of course there was the blatant evidence of the sheer volume of people living in these homes. Slum is a strong word, but some of these homes came as close to fitting its definition as a closeted Londoner may ever get.

There were connecting doors unashamedly filled in and left undecorated to create extra bedrooms, a shed with a fastened lock – quite possibly by an occupant who, before we arrived, had left for the day.

And then there were the beds. Lots and lots of beds – as many as eight of them in one room in one house which appeared to be home to more than 20 people.

The officers from Newham’s licensing team are the crusaders taking the fight to the London borough’s rogue landlords – helping out those who do obey the rules along the way.

The team consists of senior Newham council officers, immigration enforcement officers and the police – agencies which work together to crack down on landlords who have either failed to license their property or are not adhering to the licence’s terms and conditions.

Every private landlord in Newham is required to be part of the council’s licensing scheme. The authority uses a data system which gathers information from various parts of the council and its partners to assist it in identifying houses that may be in multiple occupation. This information includes council tax, benefits, planning, waste, enforcement and residents’ complaints.

Universal licensing in Newham, say the team, has almost been cracked, but what lies ahead is the challenge of bringing to justice the borough’s many HMO landlords who continue to break the terms of their licences.

After arriving at the s*****y Newham council offices – a stone’s throw from London City airport – at 7am on Tuesday, I was whisked off to the first of three East Ham properties. This one, like all those we would see that morning, was a typical street property which, before it was so crudely adapted, would have been described as a three-bedroom mid-terrace house.

The landlord of this particular property had failed to license it, but it was clear it was being let out. The one tenant present at the time told us there were seven people living at this house, but two rooms were locked, as was the shed at the back of the garden, so it was quite possible more could have been staying there.

The fire hazards were stark: damaged smoke detectors, loose light fittings and a lack of a fire door to the kitchen. There were also mouse droppings and damp and mould.

Shortly after 8am we arrived at our second property – where the sickening reality began to dawn on me.

The landlord of this cramped home was registered as holding a selective licence, which means just one family was meant to be living there. In fact we found 20 beds – all of which seemed to be in use, and the occupants were unrelated. Of the 20 beds, eight were ruthlessly bunked up on top of each other in one room – a number Russell Moffatt, Newham council’s private housing manager, described as something of a record.

Moffatt told me: “One tenant here said they were paying £60 a week to rent. There’s 20 people here. That adds up to a lot of money. The landlords do not have to work, so you can see why they do it.

“If this was being let to a family, they would be paying around £1,500 (a month). This way it is double your money (for the landlord).”

The 20 people who lived here shared a single bathroom.

At this property it was clear that one woman was in charge of all the other tenants. Moffatt said landlords often appointed a head tenant, to whom they paid a nominal fee for collecting the rent. The head tenant, said Moffatt, also often provided rogue landlords with someone to blame if they were later taken to court.

Newham was the first London borough to introduce borough-wide private rented sector licensing in January 2013. It now has 35,501 properties that have been issued with a licence. It has carried out 611 prosecutions of 492 landlords since the introduction of the system for failure to licence, providing poor quality housing and failing to comply with licence conditions. As a result it has also banned 25 landlords from operating in Newham.

Between 2011 and 2014 Newham council undertook 359 housing prosecutions. The next closest was Haringey with 57.

Moffatt said: “The database takes details of gas safety certificates, electricity certificates, tenancy agreements, bond certificates, references, the schedule of inspection and pest control.”

He explained how a picture of what was going on at a property could often be presented by the database after all the information has been fed in, and said it was the 25-30% of landlords who did not supply the paperwork when requested that went on to the list to be paid a visit.

At our third property there were four fridges in the one kitchen – again, clear evidence of severe overcrowding. This landlord was in breach of his selective licence.

And at the fourth property, which was also registered under a selective licence for eight family members, we were told by a tenant that in fact ten unrelated people lived there. A potentially dangerous gas leak was also discovered and quickly fixed.

During the visits the team took statements from the tenants who were at home, and will now decide whether they have enough evidence to pursue a prosecution against each landlord. If they decide they do, they will begin to build cases against those landlords for various offences, including failure to license a property and breach of licence.

There were also three arrests made, two for immigration offences and one for breach of treaty rights – or failure to find work.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, said: “It will take time, but in the end London will get rid of this sort of abuse.

“We should be tackling housing and wages. We cannot allow people to live like this, we cannot allow neighbours to have people living like this. If you look at the bins they are full – there is a lot more anti-social behaviour.

“When you have that number of people living in one place, often young men, they will be drinking and causing all sorts of problems.

“Another thing we are campaigning for, with the GMB, is to enforce the minimum wage, because if these people got paid a decent wage they might be able to live in better conditions, so our argument is that there is a whole bunch of stuff going on in our society that is not acceptable in a civilised place. We are tackling that and are very proud of it.”

Asked when he believed he would be able to see an end to the problem, Sir Robin said: “When we are in a position where this sort of abuse is uncommon, when people behave properly – that’s where we want to get to.

“It’s going to take a while. We have made a start, there are lots of people being challenged. We want to help the good landlords so that they are able to rent the places out. People behaving properly – that’s where we would like to get to.”

Newham council has made a start – a very good start, but there is still one hell of a long way to go in tackling the rogue landlords here.

As one police officer told me: “If you threw a stick at this street, the chances are you would find many, many more HMOs.”

Eye was asked not to identify the streets in which the properties were located ahead of possible prosecutions.

http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/dawn-raids-a-look-at-the-underbelly-of-britains-housing-crisis/

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Sickening for sure but, as most HPCers I think would acknowledge, this is something 'we' have known (if not, very very strongly suspected) for ages.

Articles like this are essential to try and wake up the wider public who don't, unlike HPCers, follow all things property related. Such articles make them aware of things like this that can be going on in their very midst and, largely because people are by and large too busy just trying to get by themselves, are unaware of.

One big question that comes to mind though, from such reports, is.......presumably these people will be evicted from their lodgings? Where are they to go?!

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They would be banned for life from keeping animals if they kept them in these conditions. Should be harder sentences for farming and abusing tenants.

On the contrary, the only farmers who would give their animals that much space are those who are independently-wealthy. Like the great Royal Rentier who seems to own most of the nicest houses around here.

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From the quoted article above

After arriving at the s*****y Newham council offices

^^ that's some pretty pathetically inept censorship by the forum software there. Reminds me of the ineptitude of AOL banning customers from Scunthorpe in the 1990s, which was really insulting to the people of that town. (I half-expect that perfectly ordinary town to be censored too). Have we really not progressed after all this time to some more intelligent filters?!?

Anyway - related to this, over on 118 there is a very interesting thread going back to last September where Southwark council were consulting on their scheme

http://www.property118.com/licensing-consultation-southwark/68869/

There is a character "chris wright" who is particularly obnoxious on that thread towards the council worker John Daley, who was only giving people an opportunity to have their say and picked the wonderful people at 118 to consult with. If you read that thread you'll see he has the patience of a saint despite continuous provocation.

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I guess this story is today's Rachmann or Hoogstraaten.

When I've heard this story in recent times, it's been in connection with tenants who are not legally in the UK, and therefore have strong reasons to take what they can get and keep well clear of authorities like the Council or police. I guess the same might apply to a criminal fringe, including druggies. But do we have evidence of it extending to mainstream people in supposedly-decent jobs? Haven't seen any HPCers claiming to be there themselves, or even to have friends there.

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Its as much a story of immigration as it is housing costs. Even in the deepest fens, where by most regional standards, housing would be considered 'affordable', eastern europeans live a dozen to a small terrace, in garages and even in small woods.

http://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/gallery_eastern_european_tenants_quit_fenland_council_owned_wisbech_pig_sty_ahead_of_its_demolition_1_3321999

Wages have been driven down so far by immigrant labour theres not much way round it. Sorry to any London based HPC'ers, but I really dont see the point of tackling housing in London until we've evicted a few million living here illegally.

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I guess this story is today's Rachmann or Hoogstraaten.

When I've heard this story in recent times, it's been in connection with tenants who are not legally in the UK, and therefore have strong reasons to take what they can get and keep well clear of authorities like the Council or police. I guess the same might apply to a criminal fringe, including druggies. But do we have evidence of it extending to mainstream people in supposedly-decent jobs? Haven't seen any HPCers claiming to be there themselves, or even to have friends there.

Yup..

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From the quoted article above

After arriving at the s*****y Newham council offices

^^ that's some pretty pathetically inept censorship by the forum software there.

I think it just makes thinks worse. Every time it happens, I automatically assume that the original said "shitty".

I see we can't talk about Widow T*****ey or *****el engines either.

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Hopefully other councils are taking note and starting their own schemes. it seems obvious really to start databases in each area with basic info. I like the idea of getting info from all the various departments and creating a co-ordinated approach.

There was a recent Ch4 series (I forget the name) which also showed various awful scenarios for tenants (and LLs) so it's reaching the main stream. Another ruse is to let the property supposedly to a family and the tenant then sublets to others without the knowledge of the LL or agent.

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Wages have been driven down so far by immigrant labour theres not much way round it. Sorry to any London based HPC'ers, but I really dont see the point of tackling housing in London until we've evicted a few million living here illegally.

Exactly, yet another case of throwing money and resources at the symptoms rather than dealing with the core problems... of course we all know why.

I think it just makes thinks worse. Every time it happens, I automatically assume that the original said "shitty".

I see we can't talk about Widow T*****ey or *****el engines either.

Sometimes inserting redundent markup (formatting code is good) can stop the filters anyway, not sure if it still works ^^

Edit to add... no it doesn't so the filters are a bit smarter...

Edited by Bubble&Squeak

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...but sometimes our slums are better than where the people have come from.......thousands are milking from the disadvantaged....things will get worse before it gets any better.

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I guess this story is today's Rachmann or Hoogstraaten.

When I've heard this story in recent times, it's been in connection with tenants who are not legally in the UK, and therefore have strong reasons to take what they can get and keep well clear of authorities like the Council or police. I guess the same might apply to a criminal fringe, including druggies. But do we have evidence of it extending to mainstream people in supposedly-decent jobs? Haven't seen any HPCers claiming to be there themselves, or even to have friends there.

I had Pakistani friends (on student visas - and apparently actually studying). They were six to a small studio flat so they could save money. That was in Forest Gate. When I lived in Manor Park in a 1BR flat - there were at least six Poles in a same sized flat above us.

I nearly ended up staying in a 3BR house (lots of New Zealanders and South Africans) which had about dozen people in. One bed was just outside the kitchen in the hallway between the washing machine and fridge freezer.

Most of these examples were more than a decade ago btw. Overcrowding has been going on for years in London.

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I had Pakistani friends (on student visas - and apparently actually studying). They were six to a small studio flat so they could save money. That was in Forest Gate. When I lived in Manor Park in a 1BR flat - there were at least six Poles in a same sized flat above us.

I nearly ended up staying in a 3BR house (lots of New Zealanders and South Africans) which had about dozen people in. One bed was just outside the kitchen in the hallway between the washing machine and fridge freezer.

Most of these examples were more than a decade ago btw. Overcrowding has been going on for years in London.

Not just London ...

When I was briefly in Easton (Bristol) in the 1980s, I was one of two (with my landlord) in a two-up, two-down terraced house. Next door, in a similar house, was a very large Asian family.

Sometime around the end of last decade, I viewed a cottage on the edge of Dartmoor: one in a terrace of former quarrymens cottages. One of those housed a family of parents + five sprogs (as no doubt most of them would've done when the cottages were first built).

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Exactly, yet another case of throwing money and resources at the symptoms rather than dealing with the core problems... of course we all know why.

Sometimes inserting redundent markup (formatting code is good) can stop the filters anyway, not sure if it still works ^^

Edit to add... no it doesn't so the filters are a bit smarter...

only "a bit" :-(

Just as it's ok to write Scunthorpe, but not ****

it SHOULD be ok to write without censorship Widow T*****y and *****el Rotary Engine, and have the filter star out only this variant: *****.

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As a kid, there was 7 of us in a 1-bed 7th floor council estate (30-odd years ago now). The council were finding us a new home, but my dad had saved a deposit and was able to buy. Even then, it was 7 of us in a 3-bed terrace.

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As a kid, there was 7 of us in a 1-bed 7th floor council estate (30-odd years ago now). The council were finding us a new home, but my dad had saved a deposit and was able to buy. Even then, it was 7 of us in a 3-bed terrace.

Not unusual. Bunk beds and all that. Not many of us had the whole East Wing to ourselves as children.

However I am sure this will prompt the traditional "Four Yorkshiremen" comments.

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Not unusual. Bunk beds and all that. Not many of us had the whole East Wing to ourselves as children.

However I am sure this will prompt the traditional "Four Yorkshiremen" comments.

Sounded like seven possibly-yorkshiremen to me.

I shall pass on that one. Had plenty of space growing up, even if it was regularly shared with wind, rain, and occasionally even rubble when the ceiling fell in.

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Jail for the rogue landlords. Make some examples. Very high fines and confiscate their property. Only hard action will sort this.

This!

Fairly effect i thought happened on the last series of Channel 4's 'How to get a council house' where the slumlord still was liable for a mortgage while at the same the local authority possessed the property and were to be paid rent from the tenants while improvements were made. A very pricey lesson learnt.

Oddly enough...slumlords think these risks are worth taking. :unsure:

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From the quoted article above

^^ that's some pretty pathetically inept censorship by the forum software there. Reminds me of the ineptitude of AOL banning customers from Scunthorpe in the 1990s, which was really insulting to the people of that town. (I half-expect that perfectly ordinary town to be censored too). Have we really not progressed after all this time to some more intelligent filters?!?

Anyway - related to this, over on 118 there is a very interesting thread going back to last September where Southwark council were consulting on their scheme

http://www.property118.com/licensing-consultation-southwark/68869/

There is a character "chris wright" who is particularly obnoxious on that thread towards the council worker John Daley, who was only giving people an opportunity to have their say and picked the wonderful people at 118 to consult with. If you read that thread you'll see he has the patience of a saint despite continuous provocation.

You were not kidding. "chris wright" seems to have absolutely no intention of having a debate or to understand what John Daley is saying. He is blinded by the rage of having to pay some money to make his property safer and feels justified in sticking it to the man. It would not be so sad if he were not lacking in mental faculties and the self awareness to realise what he is doing. He proposes exiting the area as a rational and logical approach to avoid having to make his properties safe in the event of the fire.

Chris Wright sounds like a landlord with the same thought process characteristic of the landlords of the Tazreen Fashion factory in Bangladesh. If this is the pysche of a landlord, I am terrified. Very scared.

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You were not kidding. "chris wright" seems to have absolutely no intention of having a debate or to understand what John Daley is saying. He is blinded by the rage of having to pay some money to make his property safer and feels justified in sticking it to the man. It would not be so sad if he were not lacking in mental faculties and the self awareness to realise what he is doing. He proposes exiting the area as a rational and logical approach to avoid having to make his properties safe in the event of the fire.

Chris Wright sounds like a landlord with the same thought process characteristic of the landlords of the Tazreen Fashion factory in Bangladesh. If this is the pysche of a landlord, I am terrified. Very scared.

Some are just against any Govt interference and increased regulation. They genuinely see it as an attempt at curtailing their freedom.

chris wright reads like a professional member of the awkward squad.

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It's a problem that the politicians love to rail against but have little intention of sorting.

The difficulty is that the councils end up having to house the tenant that are evicted from sheds with beds so lose out economically.

Central government could offer a fiscal incentive to solve this but won't as it would be too successful and so political suicide.

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It's a problem that the politicians love to rail against but have little intention of sorting.

Makes you wonder if the one of the reasons council housing was built after the two world wars was because you had millions of men returning from war who either knew how to kill or had killed.

Despite all of the talk about national service (especially amongst the generation who never did it because it was abolished before they got to 18) no government has dared do it. If they did they'd probably introduce civilian service where you did work for the NHS or the council - last thing you want is a bunch of unhappy 20-somethings who know how to use a gun, far better they know how to use a mop.

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Makes you wonder if the one of the reasons council housing was built after the two world wars was because you had millions of men returning from war who either knew how to kill or had killed.

Despite all of the talk about national service (especially amongst the generation who never did it because it was abolished before they got to 18) no government has dared do it. If they did they'd probably introduce civilian service where you did work for the NHS or the council - last thing you want is a bunch of unhappy 20-somethings who know how to use a gun, far better they know how to use a mop.

I heard a similar theory that as the rich were afraid of the now ex- WW trained killers in the lower classes, the NHS was created to appease them.

Arguably, a lot of the youth & many older today, are trained in virtual military strategy (Call of Duty / Battlefield / Halo etc)

How are they appeased ?

I was talking to a smart 70 yr old the other day, He thought the youth had not rebelled as their were no decent leaders.

I raised the point of online self organising systems, memes & hive minds, may mean that leaders of old were not required to the same extent

Edited by Saving For a Space Ship

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I heard a similar theory that as the rich were afraid of the now ex- WW trained killers in the lower classes, the NHS was created to appease them.

Arguably, a lot of the youth & many older today, are trained in virtual military strategy (Call of Duty / Battlefield / Halo etc)

How are they appeased ?

I was talking to a smart 70 yr old the other day, He thought the youth had not rebelled as their were no decent leaders.

I raised the point of online self organising systems, memes & hive minds, may mean that leaders of old were not required to the same extent

Apparently the mantra of the US military re: Al Qaida is "It takes a network to defeat a network" - and they have done a lot of work to restructure themselves and change their ways of working to be more effective.

I don't think the US military are getting rid of leaders though. Someone has to direct the network. I wonder if what you describe re: memes is simply no different to how mobs previously operated (only that digital gives you scope to do it bigger and faster).

Regarding appeasement of the youth, the answer is in your post. Video gaming and other outlets allow the young to release their aggression and keep them occupied - while potentially preparing them for a career in drone warfare. I know people who have lost months of their life to World of Warcraft.

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