Scandal of vulnerable tenants in 'deadly' housing

SLUM CONDITIONS: A tiny, cramped bedroom at the house in Station Road

COURT CASE: The house in Station Road, Darlington

'APPALLING DANGER': The conditions inside the property in Station Road, Darlington

ILL-FITTING: A botched light fitting at the property

First published in News
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A ROGUE landlord has been fined more than £30,000 after letting a house that could have killed his tenants and which contained a bedroom with a ceiling less than four feet high.

An anonymous tip-off about the Darlington house uncovered potentially deadly hazards, overcrowding and inadequate living conditions.

Tenants at the house, in Station Road, were found sleeping on the floor and, in one case, in a bedroom without standing room.

The property’s owner, Darlington businessman Mizan Abdin, pleaded guilty to a number of offences relating to failure to comply with regulations, He was fined £32,070 during a hearing Darlington Magistrates' Court yesterday.

Tenants, described as vulnerable and exploited, are believed to remain at the property, where visible electrical cables still dangle from a front window.

The tip-off to Darlington Borough Council and the Border Agency uncovered an 'appallingly dangerous' property that posed a risk to the lives of its overcrowded tenants, a court was told.

Every room, bar the kitchen and bathroom, in the Station Road house was used as a bedroom – including a space just 1.1m high.

The lives of the six men living in the crowded terraced house were put at risk by the landlord’s blatant disregard of health and safety, according to housing officers.

Mizan Abdin pleaded guilty by post to 17 counts of failing to comply with regulations in respect of housing in multiple occupation and one of failing to have a licence to manage his property.

The 27-year-old entered no mitigation and did not attend Darlington Magistrates Court, where the case against him was heard yesterday.

Magistrates heard council officials inspected the house in May and found a catalogue of hazards, including a lack of smoke alarms, fire doors and safe windows.

Fire exits were obstructed, lighting was broken or missing, fittings were broken and waste water spilled into the backyard.

Abdin – of Corporation Road, Darlington – did not attend the inspection and failed to provide certificates proving that gas and electrical supplies and appliances were safe.

During an inspection in May this year, the property’s sole smoke alarm was broken and dangling from a wall while plug sockets were overloaded and light fittings left hanging.

Christine Selby, chairwoman of the bench, fined Abdin £32,070, saying: “This situation is appallingly dangerous and the state of this house could have led to injury or even, in the worst case, death.”

A resident living nearby said the property had a 'regular rotation' of 'always male, always foreign' tenants.

He said: “There’s a high turnover of people living there and they’re being exploited, nobody deserves to live like that but some people will do anything for money.”

Following the conviction, Darlington Borough Council will now review the circumstances surrounding the property.

Councillor Chris McEwan said its tenants had been exposed to great risks and added: “This case demonstrates the problems faced by vulnerable tenants living in the private rented sector and quite clearly shows a landlord with no concern for the health and safety or welfare of his tenants.”

The council’s action against Abdin was praised by charity Shelter, which runs a rogue landlord campaign.

Chief executive Campbell Robb said: “Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact rogue landlords have on people’s lives, and we’ve been campaigning to urge government and councils to crack down on this small but highly dangerous minority who make people’s lives a misery.

“We are pleased to hear that Darlington Borough Council is committing to firm action against rogue landlords operating in their area and we urge other councils to follow Darlington’s lead and do everything in their power to crack down on the worst offenders in their area and stamp out rogue landlords for good.”

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