CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Raids on landlords suspected of cashing in on crowded homes

Camden housing team make early morning visit to house under investigation in Chalk Farm after tip-off from former tenant

27 April, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Camden Council housing officials inside the Chalk Farm flat that appeared to have extra bedsits

“GOOD morning, it’s Camden Council!”

Housing officials knocked at a Chalk Farm house early yesterday morning (Wednesday) following a tip-off that regulations on living standards were being broken.

The Town Hall team believed a two-bedroom flat in the building, near Haverstock Hill, had been unlawfully divided to squeeze in extra bedsits and cash in on more rent.

The New Journal watched as officials knocked at the front door of the flat, before being let in by a young man living in the ground floor. They walked around the landing checking post for extra addresses, and taking notes and making measurements before a locksmith jimmied open the door to the first-floor flat.

The front room had been split into two bedrooms with a makeshift partition wall down the middle. “We see this all the time,” said housing official Vincent Arnold. “It’s a classic. If a landlord owns a few other properties you can be talking about several thousand pounds a month.”

A sleepy young woman, who said she would soon be returning to her home in Australia, emerged from one of the rooms and said she was distressed by all the commotion. She said she had booked the room through an online letting agency.

A small room in a privately rented flat in Chalk Farm can go for as much as £850 a month and, because of the extortionate cost of living in London, some tenants are living in poor conditions.

The council told the woman that if the landlord was convicted in court she would be able to apply to reclaim up to a year’s rent. Mr Arnold said that landlords running a house in multiple occupation (HMO) need a licence from the council, which costs around £500.

There is also a minimum room size which one of the flat’s rooms appeared to be falling short of, Mr Arnold added. The “raid” was part of a Housing Action Day aiming to throw a spotlight on 6,000 unlicensed homes in multiple occupation in Camden.

A HMO includes house and flat shares, student homes, bedsits and some buildings converted into flats. The message from the Town Hall to landlords is get licensed, or face prosecution.

Housing chief Pat Callaghan said: “Licensing HMOs in Camden protects tenants’ rights and improves their living standards, while the landlord gains certification from us that their home is fit to let.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, yesterday launched a new database that will name criminal landlords and letting agents who have been successfully prosecuted for housing offences.

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