The owner and agent of a Whitechapel property have been ordered to pay more than £30,000 after Tower Hamlets Council officers found 33 people crammed into a two bedroom flat.
The council’s environmental health team raided 5-7 Court Street after a tip off that it was being used as an illegal and dangerously overcrowded house in multiple occupation. In addition to the flat containing 33 people, council officers discovered another containing nine people, including two 10 year old children.
The freeholder, Maqbool Khan, pleaded guilty to numerous housing breaches and was sentenced at Thames Magistrates Court on 3 January 2020. Mohammed Abul Miah, director of managing agent ARS Properties, did not attend court but the case was proven against him in his absence.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The conditions that these tenants were living in were totally unacceptable. Too often we see the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society being taken advantage of by rogue landlords and it is right that the courts have sent a strong message that this will not be tolerated.
“The victims were people who had come to London from overseas in the hope of a better future, only to find themselves in overcrowded and unsafe housing. We are working with responsible landlords and agents to strengthen our Private Renters’ Charter and drive up standards for tenants.”
The council understands that the property was being used to house people on a nightly basis with occupants handing over cash for a bed space. They were found sleeping in bunk beds and on mattresses strewn across the floor. Officers found an infestation of cockroaches and defective drainage.
The flats were not only unclean and significantly overcrowded, but they also failed to meet basic fire safety standards leaving those asleep at risk of being unable to escape in the event of an emergency.
The council team was accompanied on the raid by the police and officers from other partner agencies. Five people were arrested for immigration offences and others were referred for onward assistance.
Councillor Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “This is another case where a lack of English, combined with a lack of awareness of both housing rights and support services, has left vulnerable migrants open to exploitation by criminal landlords.
“Last year we were successful in securing funding to address this specific issue. We’re committed to improving housing conditions and preventing homelessness for new migrants, while boosting their employability and assisting with their social integration.
“This work will go hand-in-hand with the type of enforcement action that brought these people to court. We will continue to defend the vulnerable in our borough.”