A flat built for six people, rearranged to house anywhere up to fifteen sleep.
One lady told us they were all family. But as we walked through the house with Planning Enforcement officers, we found a room housing students, a couple living on the top floor, none of them related.
How much rent do you pay per month?
650 pounds? Okay.
And it’s quite a lot of money to pay for one room.
It’s all gimmick. Maybe this is the price you have to pay. Wherever you go this is the kind of thing… so… You manage?
Yeah, we have to manage. We have no other options.
We’ve just been in that room there. We found three beds. And we went in to that bedroom there, so that’s two rooms, and we found another four beds.
Unlicensed houses in multiple occupation are a common problem in Newham. Tenants living in cramped conditions, and landlords raking in the rent.
If you go find the big room like that, so we can’t manage, we can’t afford that much room rent, actually. So we have to manage that rent, you understand that? We have to do that.
With a chronic shortage of social housing and people being priced out of the rental market. The problem of HMO’s, and so-called “sheds with beds” is increasing. This window just next to East Ham station is full of adverts for rooms to rent. And, no doubt, some of the landlords advertising here will be flouting planning regulations and exploiting their tenants.
They’re described as modern day slums, sheds with beds, some far more basic than others. We accessed this out house through the landlord’s property.
Six months they’ve been living, yeah?
There’s a couple there. I see the woman.
You see the woman?
Our first visit clearly showed signs of occupation. But when we went back a week later with the landlord, there were cupboards blocking the bathroom door. The room was bare.
So, people used to live here?
So people used to live here?
Not now. That was long time ago when I did this place up. But then I didn’t know the law then. So then after when they said, no you can’t use this. So I said, okay if you can’t use it, you can’t then.
Simply put. But council say this is a difficult problem to tackle. If access isn’t gained first time, a letter is sent to the landlord. And by the next visit, the tenants could be out.
There’s massive, massive overcrowding. It’s unacceptable. And so for us the answer… it’s not enough to say, there’s the problem, you have to fix it. We’re spending 18 million pounds in enforcement in this borough. Either we take some action now, or you will not come back here to the city in 10 years’ time that looks like the London we’ve got now. There’ll be swathes of poverty, swathes of slums.
The government have set up a task force to deal with this problem, giving areas like Newham money and guidance. But they admit, more investigation needs to be done into the landlords and those affected. For some people, struggling to meet the city’s high rents, this is the only alternative.