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.
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.
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.
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.”
Source – Northern Echo, 02 Sept 2014
MINERS who broke the strike and “scabbed” can still expect to be blanked in the street 30 years on, according to a former union official.
Alan Cummings, 66-year-old former NUM lodge secretary in the ex-pit village of Easington Colliery, County Durham, explained: “People have long memories.
“There’s very few people talk to them and it split families. But we didn’t have a lot in this part.”
The strike held firm from March 1984 and the village pit which had 2,700 workers was lightly picketed. Then in August things changed.
A power loader named Paul Wilkinson from Bowburn, 10 miles away, was bussed in and hundreds of riot police made sure he got to work.
Mr Cummings, who still lives in a terraced house a stone’s throw from the former pit gates, said: “I have never seen as many police before in Easington.
“There’s only two ways into the village and it was completely blocked off. People couldn’t get in or out.
“After 6am there was vans and vans coming in. Pickets were called back from elsewhere and had to come across fields to get here. The atmosphere was really bad.”
Police and pickets fought through the day and serious disorder broke out when Coal Board property was smashed and cars wrecked.
Mr Cummings said the self-contained, isolated village had been law-abiding and needed little policing prior to the strike.
The treatment by officers – particularly those drafted in from South Wales and Lincolnshire – disgusted many locals, he said.
One striker received an out-of-court settlement of £5,000 for injuries he sustained in the protest, the ex-NUM official said. But it was a “hollow victory”.
“Miners’ wives and families in the street could not believe what went on – there was a sea-change in their attitude,” he said. “It’s been called a village under siege.”
The strike ended a little under a year after it began and the pit closed forever in 1993 – just short of 100 years since work began.
And Easington Colliery’s reliance on coal meant it was a disaster, Mr Cummings said.
“It’s been total devastation,” he said. “It’s my worst nightmare and I knew it was going to happen.”
Whereas the Germans planned pit closures in their coalfields, “here, they just wiped us out”.
The village had the second-highest percentage of colliery houses in the country and they were sold off to private landlords in the 1990s, bringing an influx of problem tenants and class A drugs.
Seemingly half the shops on Seaside Lane were shuttered and the working man’s club life, once so vibrant, was dying out.
Mr Cummings retained a passionate hate for Margaret Thatcher and did not care that the village’s celebration of her death last year upset some.
“What an epitaph she has in these mining communities: death, a lot of people have committed suicide, and no hope.
“All down to her, and some of her spawn that’s about now.”
But he also laid blame at the door of New Labour, which he said failed to make enough impact during its time in power.
Now those who have jobs work in call centres, for Railtrack, the Nissan plant at Sunderland or the Caterpillar plant in nearby Peterlee.
“But 99 per cent of them would come back to the pit if it was open,” he said.
Source – Shields Gazette, 03 Mar 2014