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Dawn raids in Southall on 'beds in sheds'

Thu 14 Feb 2013
Dawn raids were carried out on seven properties in Southall as part of the ongoing crackdown on ‘beds in sheds’ in the area by council officers, the police and immigration officers.

During the raids 16 men and one woman were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.

The council’s dedicated outhouse enforcement team inspected the properties and found evidence of housing safety violations and overcrowding.

Attending the raids was Leader of the council Julian Bell, 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.

Two of the addresses raided 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.

A garage, shed or temporary garden structure being used as sleeping accommodation is classed an illegal outbuilding.

In April 2012, the council committed £250,000 to set up a permanent team to tackle the issue. The government provided £280,000 of one-off funding which was used to expand the team but this will run out next month.

Part of the team’s work 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).

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.

Councillor Bell said: "Seeing people living in squalid, cramped conditions is truly shocking. My fear is that the dire shortage of private sector housing, high rents and changes to benefits will create a ‘perfect storm’ where more and more people are pushed into unsuitable housing at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords."

"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."

Where different households share facilities like kitchens or bathrooms, the landlords have to obtain a licence from the council.

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 tenants also need appropriate access to facilities like kitchens and bathrooms. The council can also limit the number of tenants 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.

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