Thanet District Council vs the Slumlords
Thanet District Council have secured a fine of £10,000 for a local slumlord.
Taking from 2009 to 2011 to have the fine awarded and goodness only how long to collect the fine ten grand hardly seems a lot. It is apaprently the maximum fine the court can impose which suggests to me why Thanet has so many slum flats.
Cllr Chris Wells (Cabinet Member for Community Services) has according the the thanet District Council website said he is
pleased that the magistrates decided to fine Sandwich Properties Ltd the maximum amount. Cllr Wells went on to add
This company was clearly unable or unwilling to look after their property, and did not have any regard for the safety of tenants.
Over the two years that it took Thanet District Council to get a fine of £10,000 four flats would have netted £37,440 (more before TDC started to the process) so with minimal remedial work the £10,000 can be seen as simply a running cost.
Alarmingly this London based property company is not alone in treating Thanet's poor in this way. In early 2010 I visited a couple who were living in the most squalid conditions I have ever seen. The thin carpets (where there was carpet) were damp and threadbare. The building stank of urine and rotting wood. Flys were to be seen in every room and every hallway.
The shared "bathroom" was while "clean" of such a run down state as to be unsuitable for washing in. The cold taps ran constantly and judging by the stains had done so for many year. There was no hot water.
Apparently each room was being let out at £90 a week because the Council would be expected to pay this without question. This being an old hotel there were a large number of rooms of which about five were filled. The people living there had moved in due to having nowhere better to go and were considered by the Council not to be high priority cases for re-housing.
Even a coursery examination of the surrounding properties suggested that this level of slum-like neglect was fairly common. Each building looked like it had once been valuable but was no worth more based on the number of benefits claiments that the landlord could cram in.
It is an undefendable and shared disgrace that even today in Thanet slums of the worst kind flurish. That they do so at the cost of tax payer money is unconscionable.
The story at the property I visited was similar to the one Thanet Council are reporting on. The owners were based in London and the leaking drain, damp carpets, broken windows and damaged lights were not a pressing mater compaired to collecting as much as possible from the Council for packing Thanet's most vulnerable poor into buildings not fit for human habitation.
The word was that the building was currently "condemed" by the council and indeed had been before but that people were still being moved in to the rooms that would make a weaker man sick to his stumach.
Cllr Chris Wells might well tell us that
where such blatant disregard for tenant safety is evident, we will use every power available to us to ensure that rogue landlords are brought to justice and tenants are provided with the safe living environment that everyone deserves. However Thanet Council needs to work a lot harder and a lot faster if it is to hope to keep up with property owners that have learned to flout regualtions, abuse tenants and work the loop-holes in the law to enable them to keep doing making money. Where people are seen only in terms of the ammount of housing benefit the landlord can claim.
I know some fantastic landlords and have seen first hand how well they look after their tenants. I have lived in rented accomidation that is very good. I know through experience that not all landlords are evil.
I have also lived in properties that I thought was about as low as it got but even this was a luxurary compaired to the slums that the worst abusers of human beings that have opperated for a very long time in parts of Cliftonville and, no doubt, other parts of Thanet.
While I am very pleased that slow moving justice has been applied in this case I invite Cllr Chris Wells to take a walk with me one day and I will show him just how bad it can get. Perhaps the council is moving as fast as the law allows in which case we must be clear to central government that more power to act against slumlords is needed. Perhaps if the local council had not sold off it's housing stock quite so enthusiasticly the opportunity might not exist and perhaps if the benefits by the sea disgrace of years gone buy...
Whatever the cause of this disgrace what is needed is action that goes beyond occasionally landing a small fine on a big business.