House with tree trunk growing through walls earned rogue landlords £40k-a-year

The property in Clapham was rented out at £100-a-week per room

Lamiat Sabin
Sunday 30 November 2014 13:20 GMT

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


House prices are going through the roof, especially in the capital, however you wouldn't expect to find a property with a long tree trunk growing through the actual walls.

Rogue landlords who gained control of the dilapidated property decided to illegally extend the structure and simply chose to build around the huge plant in the garden.

The three-bedroom terraced house in Clapham, south London, was then inhabited by tenants who decided to make daily use of the table-top and extension plug sockets installed on, and through, the tree.

The trunk had been drilled to allow electricity cables to be fed through and an electrician who was working for Lambeth council said it was the most dangerous site he had seen in 35 years, The Guardian reported.

"The conditions the people in this illegal HMO [house in multiple occupation] were living in were truly appalling, and represented a genuine danger to life and limb," Councillor Matthew Bennett had said.

Lambeth council designated the house a "short-life" home 40 years ago as they did not have the funds to renovate them as planned.

The ramshackle condition of the house was discovered by council officials who have been seeking to regain ownership of it and it is not clear if the identities of the landlords, who packed in as many tenants as possible into the small rooms, are known.

The staircase has also been missing railings that would help prevent a tenant from easily falling down a dangerous drop onto the flight of stairs.

Wood chip boards covered the floor and planks, broken appliances and mattresses were left about the whole property, which lacked furniture and basic home accessories such as light-bulbs, flooring and curtains.

"It is shocking that someone can make money exploiting people by illegally renting out such dangerous accommodation with no regard for the safety of the people living there.

"We have 21,000 people on our housing waiting list, 1,800 families in temporary accommodation, and 1,300 families who are severely overcrowded," Mr Bennett had continued.

Some 1,200 homes - including the Clapham house - were let out by the council in the 1970s when it did not have enough funding to refurbish them to a minimum standard, and they have been reclaiming them over the past five years in order to sell them off. The local authority claims that the funds will go towards new housing developments.

It would be "irresponsible" for Lambeth council to spend an estimated £70,000 on refurbishing each short-life property in severe disrepair "particularly when they are being misused for these exploitative and illegal purposes," Mr Bennett explained.

The house has one bathroom for all eight occupants to share, who had fled the property by the time the authorities arrived.

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