|17 Arrested in 'Beds in Sheds' Crackdown|
Dawn raids in Southall today
Council officers, the police and immigration officers carried out dawn raids on seven properties in Southall as part of the ongoing crackdown on ‘beds in sheds’ in the area.
During the raids 16 men and one woman were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences. Officers from the council’s dedicated outhouse enforcement team inspected the properties and found evidence of housing safety violations and overcrowding.
Leader of the council Julian Bell attended the raids along with the Minister of State for Housing, Mark Prisk and Minister of State for Immigration, Mark Harper; as well as Councillor Kate Crawford, chair of the council’s regulatory committee.
Of the seven addresses raided, two had illegally occupied outhouses and in three cases the main house was rented to multiple tenants without a proper licence or adequate facilities for the number of people living there.
An illegal outbuilding could be a garage, shed or temporary garden structure being used as sleeping accommodation. Although not all garden buildings require planning permission they cannot be used as separate self-contained accommodation without permission.
The council committed £250,000 to set up a permanent team to tackle the issue in April 2012. In addition, the government provided £280,000 of one-off funding which was used to expand the team but this will run out next month. During the visit the council leader pressed the ministers to find further funding to keep the team operating at full capacity, which they agreed to consider.
As part of the team’s work, it is visiting every home in Southall with a building in the garden. Working with police, the council is carrying out raids twice a month, on properties where it suspects there are illegally occupied outhouses or unlicensed homes of multiple occupancy (HMO).
As part of the clampdown, officers have already inspected more than 3,000 homes and issued 224 planning warnings, 84 contravention notices and 31 Housing Act Notices. The council has also been given permission to demolish four illegal outbuildings if the owner doesn’t do so within a year.
“We will also continue to press for further powers and increased fines so we can hit these landlords where it hurts in the pocket.
“The landlords are putting an increasing strain on local resources, such as waste removal, schools and healthcare while profiting from undeclared rental incomes. The structures being illegally rented can often be unsafe and have poor conditions such as no electricity or clean water.”
Under the Housing Act, landlords of large HMOs – homes where different households share facilities like kitchens or bathrooms – have to obtain a licence from the council.
Before granting a licence the council carries out checks to ensure that risks to people’s safety are minimised and gas and electrical safety certificates are up to date. The council’s regulatory services officers also make sure tenants have appropriate access to facilities like kitchens and bathrooms. The council can also limit the number of tenants allowed to live there to prevent over-crowding.
Residents are being urged to contact the council’s outbuilding project team on 020 8825 8786 if they are concerned about an outbuilding in their area. Details will be kept completely confidential.
13th February 2013