Local authority goes after 'beds in sheds'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Legal, Local Government
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A London local authority is going after rogue landlords who are letting out 'beds in sheds'.
Southwark Council's enforcement team has started a major clampdown on the makeshift homes, illegally converted from out-buildings, cellars and lofts and rented out to families and students.
The council has investigated 20 cases since April 2012. In some instances, landlords have been prosecuted after refusing to comply with housing standards.
Four rogue landlords have been charged since January 2013, with one prosecution resulting in a total fine of £14,185.
Offences such as a failure to licence a house in multiple occupation (HMO) carry a maximum fine of £20,000.
The council is also investigating seriously overcrowded bedsits and poor living conditions in overcrowded houses.
This year 111 enforcement notices have been served on houses let as bedsits and shared houses where conditions were poor and did not meet basic health, safety and welfare needs of occupiers.
Last year the council obtained additional funding of £163k from the Department of Communities & Local Government to help support the efforts in bringing enforcement action against rogue landlords exploiting those on low incomes.
An additional three enforcement officers have been recruited as part of a dedicated team.
Councillor Richard Livingstone, the council's cabinet member for community safety, said: “It is outrageous that some slum landlords think it is fair to place people in dangerous and compromising self-contained units wherever they see fit, just to make a quick buck.
“We have witnessed all types of squalid conditions with ‘tenants’ paying hundreds of pounds a week. Premises range from commercial office buildings that have been poorly converted without planning permission to back gardens, caravans and shop storerooms. In other cases cowboy landlords are advertising severely overcrowded houses which are let in multiple occupations to families in grim conditions that can never meet the standards under the Housing Act.
"Our aim is to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of private tenants and take appropriate enforcement action against these irresponsible landlords who place tenants in harm's way. We want everyone to live in safe accommodation that is not a threat to their health and well-being. We are taking a firm stance and will not hesitate to prosecute rogue landlords across Southwark.”