Fifty adults and a baby found living in four houses in Barking and Dagenham
PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:19 21 October 2015
Fifty-one people - including a six-week-old baby sharing a bed with two adults - were found crammed into four houses during a nighttime raid.
The Post joined seven police officers, council housing officers, council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell, a Hungarian interpreter and a television camera crew for the secret crackdown on “rogue landlords” earlier this month.
Cllr Rodwell said a robust approach is needed to stop landlords capitalising on the housing crisis.
“London is suffering with buy-to-let landlords not living up to their social responsibility,” he said. “It’s quite amazing how people think it’s acceptable to make money out of vulnerable people – whether it’s residents living in these properties or around them.
“It drives me even further to make sure we’ve got the resources to tell rogue landlords they’re not welcome.”
But his message is not being heard by some landlords, who are willing to let out cramped houses furnished with fire hazards.
I saw it was often tenants struggling, and often failing, to speak English who were confronted with the raids.
At a three-bedroom house in Lyndhurst Gardens, Barking, a short, balding man was baffled by officers’ interest in a double bed in his front room.
But police found six adults and four children living there in what housing officers said is an illegal sub-let not involving the landlord.
Fifteen people were living in a three-bedroom house in Lodge Avenue, Barking, which had faulty electrics, no fire alarms and frayed wires hanging overhead.
After electricity on the top floor failed when officers disconnected a risky radiator, Cllr Rodwell emerged from the property.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “There’s open sockets, broken sockets, a heater I haven’t seen since my dear old nan was around and the main circuit box was open – it’s a fire waiting to happen.”
And he was appalled to find 16 people – including a six-week-old baby and a bullmastiff dog – living in a three-bedroom house in Bosworth Road, Dagenham, after being let by a council-approved agency.
“They probably don’t know and probably don’t care as long as they get their money,” Cllr Rodwell said, as the apparent occupants told police they didn’t live there.
A final raid in Hedingham Road, Dagenham, revealed evidence of about 10 people paying £4,000 a month to share a three-bedroom terraced house and a bed in a shed.
Cllr Rodwell told the camera crew he was upset with what he’d seen after the front room window revealed four mattresses lining the floor of what used to be a living room.
“We’ve [potentially] stopped a building going up in flames,” he said. “I’m really proud of our officers and our residents for letting us know about these beds in sheds.”