Dagenham dawn raid crackdown on overcrowded immigrant housing

Police officers target a second property in Chadwell Heath this morning

Police officers target a second property in Chadwell Heath this morning - Credit: Archant

A dawn raid this morning revealed a string of heavily overcrowded, neglected properties in the heart of Dagenham.

The door was wide open at the first of the targeted properties, when the Post joined two immigration officers, around four policemen and four council private rental housing officers at the first-floor flat in Chadwell Heath.

“We have had a few complaints from residents and other people about the number of people living here and the trouble it’s causing,” Sergeant James Kent explained on entering the smoke-filled flat.

The three bedrooms, licensed to hold a maximum of five people, showed at least eight people in the property – five men and three women. None possessed keys to the flat, with the result that all eight were asked to vacate the flat within seven days.

In one room, five mattresses were pressed together, and many of its inhabitants pretended to be asleep. Others said they were there because of a party the night before.

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“Start waking them up,” ordered one officer, as the Romanian occupants slowly walked out of the flat to be interviewed by the immigration team.

The occupants claimed to be renting from a tenant called “Constantin”, also Romanian, and said the ten of them had arrived by minibus last week.

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Amongst the group were a father and 17-year-old son, and two brothers. There were differing accounts of how long their stay was, and how long they intended to remain.

After the delayed arrival of the Romanian police officer, who was able to translate the interviews for the immigration team, the tenants were issued with forms to prove their eligibility to stay.

Within the month they will be asked to give proof that they are working, students, self-sufficient, self-employed or job-seeking, said one of the two immigration officers, who asked not to be named.

The next target is a second property in Chadwell Heath, where the legal tenant, a 25-year-old mother of six, is found with five other adults – the majority of them family members.

The total of 12 adults far exceeds the five permitted in the three-bedroom property, where two mattresses were found in a shed in the garden.

An apologetic landlord soon appeared on the scene, as an increasing number of police officers turned up. The landlord claimed to have no knowledge of the residency, and complied with the housing officers, who asked him to turn up with proof of regular visits, rental payments and an intention to repair the property.

“It’s a complete minefield,” said one police officer. “People don’t realise it’s happening on the street. Every property is different, but that [the first] property is fairly typical.”

The immigration officers then take their leave, while the remaining police and council officers head to a third property in central Dagenham. Here there is no evidence of over-crowding, but the council’s antisocial behaviour officer issues a warning to the residents, giving them one week to sort out noise issues, after complaints of night-time banging on the glass and doors.

“I want you to think about the impact your lifstyle has on other people,” she said. It then transpires the landlord does not hold the necessary private rented property license to let out the property at all.

“We’ve seen worse,” added Eliz Bojte, one of the council’s private rental housing team.

“This is the first time I’ve been on a raid but I think it will become more common practice. Issues like these have risen in the past few years – we see a lot of overcrowded properties.”

To read more of the story, pick up a copy of the Barking and Dagenham Post, out next Wednesday, July 15.

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