A court banning a landlord for just five years after he housed 40 people in a semi sums up our rotten housing system

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A landlord in Brent, London, was renting a four-bedroom semi-detached house out to 40 people – with one person even sleeping outside under a tarpaulin in the garden. Yet when he was caught and tried, all a court did was fine him around £40k and ban him from renting for five years.

40 people in one semi-detached house in Brent

As Brent and Kilburn Times reported:

Jaydipkumar Rameshchandra Valand… has been slapped with Brent Council’s first ever banning order and cannot engage in any property management work in the country for the next five years.

The landlord, 48, was one of four people found guilty of raking in £360,000 by cramming 40 tenants into a single semi-detached home in Napier Road, Wembley, in 2018.

In 2022, a court fined Valand £30,000 and £3,347 in costs, plus an extra £6,190 in fines and costs for lying about not owning a UK business.

Since then, a judge has placed the property management ban on Valand. However, he wasn’t the only one involved. As Property Industry Eye reported in 2018:

Mother and daughter Harsha and Chandni Shah, along with Mrs Harsha Shah’s brother Sanjay Shah, were pocketing around £112,000 a year from the property.

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The council fined them all. Property Industry Eye described how:

Enforcement officers from Brent Council found appalling conditions in the ‘shanty’ style house.

They also found a woman living in a lean-to shed in the back garden of the property. The shack had no lighting or heating and was made out of wood offcuts, pallets and tarpaulin.

the lean to in the brent property

It also noted that:

During a raid, enforcement officers… found some residents sharing a single bed, with night workers swapping sleeping shifts with those who worked during the day.

Moreover, it’s not the first incident like this in Brent. As the Guardian reported in 2018:

Vispasp Sarkari, 56, another landlord in the area, was fined last year for squeezing 27 people into a four-bedroom semi-detached house that had been converted into seven tiny flats. He was ordered last month to pay a record £1.5m penalty for breaking planning laws on that and other properties which he had illegally converted into bedsits. One of the properties where families were found paying £650 a month was infested with cockroaches, rats and damp.

However, these scandals come off the back of a countrywide rotten industry – which has recently caused the deaths of two people.

A deadly industry

Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died because of his racist housing association. As the Canary previously reported, a:

coroner ruled that Awaab died due to mould exposure that RBH failed to deal with. The housing association repeatedly ignored Awaab’s family’s desperate pleas for help.

Then, Luke Brooks died after developing breathing difficulties linked to his “heavily mould-infested” rented accommodation. As the Canary previously reported, the classist council:

instructed [the landlord] to make some improvements, but crucially they were not told to address the mould issue. This is despite the inspectors finding mould in Luke’s room.

However, in Luke’s case, a coroner ruled that “evidence was not sufficient to determine the source of the aspergillus” that lead to his death.

Only the end of for-profit housing will do

In both Awaab’s and Luke’s cases of discrimination and neglect, no one has been personally held accountable. The government has introduced the Social Housing Act under which, as BBC News reported:

Rogue landlords can be given unlimited fines and social housing managers are required to have qualifications.

Big deal. In both Awaab’s and Luke’s cases, it wasn’t simply rogue landlords that were the problem – but the entire system, which failed them both.

Moreover, take for example notorious-yet-huge social housing associations like Clarion. A fine means little when they rake in over £1bn each year. As the Canary previously reported, Clarion is the second most complained-about housing association.

What is really needed in order to stop deaths like those of Awaab and Luke – and to stop disgraceful, greedy, and classist landlords like Valand – is an end to the notion of for-profit rented housing. However, that is nowhere on the horizon. So, the best we can hope for is communities and tenants taking it upon themselves to fight back against landlords – whether that be individuals, councils, or housing associations.

Featured image via Brent Council

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