Man found sleeping in under the stairs cupboard in rogue landlord raid

3 November 2017 in Housing and Mayor
Newham Council inspectors have discovered a young man sleeping in a coffin-like cupboard, in an overcrowded house in Beckton, East London.
The desperate conditions were uncovered during an early morning raid by the council’s private rented sector team, as part of Newham’s ongoing campaign to rid the borough of rogue landlords.

The team were joined on the raid by Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales and members of the GMB union leadership, Warren Kenny (London Regional Secretary), and Tim Roache (The General Secretary).

The union leaders were in the borough on a fact finding mission to see the council’s ground breaking private rented sector licensing scheme in action.

The scheme - which requires all private rented properties in the borough to have a licence - is currently under review by the government.

During a visit to three overcrowded properties, the team discovered the young man living in a space approximately 1metre X 2metres under the stairs. The rest of the property had 11 sleeping spaces – with bunkbeds crammed into single rooms. Officers also uncovered fire and electrical safety hazards.

At another overcrowded property in Upton Park, the team found a shed structure where three people were each paying £200 a month in rent. The rest of the property had been split into eight rooms, over three floors. These rooms were being shared by four families.

All the landlords involved will be issued financial penalty notices (FPNs), which can be up to £30,000 per offence, depending on the seriousness of the conditions.

The Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, said: “It cannot be right in the 21st century, in one of the world’s wealthiest cities, a young man is being forced to pay hundreds of pounds to rent a cupboard under the stairs, sleeping alongside the gas metre.

“The scenes we saw on this visit are a timely reminder that, while by tackling bad landlords we are driving up standards, there is still much to do. That is why it’s imperative that the government allow us to continue with this work, and stop the exploitation of tenants.”

“The scheme aims to improve the quality of property in the private sector, to make the experience of renting homes in the borough safer and more secure for our residents.

“The GMB union leadership was keen to come down and see our licensing scheme in action, to understand why it’s so important.
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: "Our visit to Newham was a real eye-opener, we all know the housing market is broken, but finding people living in cupboards marks a new low.

"It’s fantastic to see how Newham’s licensing scheme is forcing this kind of chronic exploitation of tenants into the light, and how its effective enforcement by dedicated workers on the front line is bring the guilty landlords to book.

"I would appeal to the government to act quickly and allow Newham to continue this critically important work.”