Councils 'are turning blind eye' to rise of slum landlords

Children sleep within inches of fungi growing through walls. Immigrants live illegally in sheds in other people's back gardens. These are just two examples of the rise of slum housing in Britain, as individuals and local authorities struggle to cope with a 21st-century housing crisis which has led to unscrupulous "slum landlords" profiteering from society's most vulnerable.

A chronic shortage in social housing and an unaffordable housing market mean that around 3.4 million people in the UK rent their homes, a 40 per cent rise in the past five years.

Local authorities are turning a blind eye to illegal and unsafe housing because they do not have the resources to re-house those inside, housing officers admit in footage obtained by uncover documentary teams for Channel 4's Dispatches.

Dr Julie Rugg, from the Centre for Housing Policy, who was commissioned by the Labour government to review the private rental sector explained: "An environmental health officer might say, 'Look, 60 of these properties... I could condemn them tomorrow... but where are these people going to go?'

"The ability of the environmental health officer to react is undermined and in some cases they get actually quite dispirited because they know that other parts of the council aren't going to take any action."

The programme exposes the practices of unscrupulous landlords who evict people from their homes in order to charge new tenants higher rates, and whose properties fail to meet the most basic standards required by law – yet authorities seem unable to take action.

The programme, presented by Jon Snow, also reveals communities of illegal immigrants living in garden sheds in Southall, West London.

An undercover reporter pays £40 a week in cash to share a shed in a back garden with a stranger, in which the wiring is unsafe, putting their lives at risk. In the house itself, the landlord rents a room to an Indian family comprising two adults and two children. The children are continually bitten by bedbugs.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of homeless and housing charity Shelter, said: "Many environmental health officers tell us they see problems all the time. They don't have the powers or the capacity to do something about it. Let's be frank, the cuts that many councils are going through at the moment, this is one of the areas that is going to suffer most."

Research conducted by Shelter says that more than 90 per cent of environmental health officers with tenant liaison responsibilities have encountered examples of landlords engaging in the harassment or illegal eviction of tenants.

Eighty per cent of environmental health officers have come across landlords in their area who persistently refuse to maintain their properties to a decent standard and yet two-thirds say no landlords have been prosecuted in the past 12 months.

Mr Robb said: "The Government has to recognise its responsibility to protect this vast and growing population of private tenants.

"We urge the housing minister to work closely with all local authorities and ensure that they are using every weapon in their armoury to crack down on unlawful operators, like those exposed in Dispatches. It is absolutely essential that we are sending a clear signal to tenants, landlords and local authorities that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015