Police and fire officers joined forces to visit a property in The Medway, Daventry on Thursday morning after concerns were raised by a private landlord about the over-occupation of a house which is believed to house up to 14 people.
The operation followed investigations with Daventry District Council on a number of properties involving over-occupation of unlicensed premises. Such activities are of concern because of the following:
Houses of multiple-occupancy are governed by strict rules, and are regulated by the District Council and the Fire Authority. These rules are set to protect occupants, to ensure that the dwelling is safe and fit for residence, and properly inspected and registered. In the case of non-compliance, this can lead to notices being served and the landlord being fined up to £20,000.
In recent months, such a notice has been served by council officials on a town centre property, following joint action involving the Council, the Fire Service and the police, requiring the reduction in the number of residents.
The over-occupation of normal dwellings can conceal more sinister practices, such as human trafficking or forced labour. Thursday’s operation at The Medway has been to ensure that the 10-14 foreign nationals occupying the property and who are transported daily to work in another part of the district, are doing so voluntarily and in line with residence and employment rules.
This has led officers to a commercial operation where the occupants of address at The Medway have been interviewed with the aid of Bulgarian interpreters.
Such practice can place residents at risk of exploitation by unscrupulous landlords or those who sub-let properties, breaching standard tenancy rules, and be highly damaging to the property and the landlord. Thursday’s operation was in full cooperation of the law-abiding landlord, and the agents acting for her, following complaints about the management of the let.
Sgt Sam Dobbs, from Daventry’s Safer Community Team said: “This kind of operation shows how effective agencies can be when we work together by sharing information, and pooling the array of powers that are available to us.
“Whilst police officers have many powers, the powers open to council officers and fire officers are also extensive, and we will use a combination of these to protect local residents, and those who are vulnerable.
“We are aware of the risks of foreign nationals being brought to the area to exploit the availability of work here, and we will make all efforts to ensure that those who do work here do so voluntarily and lawfully. I appeal to local people, housing owners and letting agents to report any concerns about over-occupation of local housing. This can also be done anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Cllr Mike Warren, Health and Housing Portfolio Holder at Daventry District Council, said: “The 2004 Housing Act grants the Council significant powers to ensure that the housing provision in the District is safe and compliant with a range of requirements and regulations.
“Daventry District Council will not hesitate to investigate any concerns or complaints of potential unlawful housing provision and works closely with other agencies to keep local housing provision safe.”
Cllr André González de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection, said: “Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service have an important role to play in ensuring that Houses in Multiple Occupation have the appropriate fire precautions in place and are safe for residents to occupy them.
“This operation was the result of fantastic partnership working and we will continue to work together to ensure the safety of people across Northamptonshire.”
No one has been arrested as a result of Thursday’s operation, although investigations are continuing.