Over the past 12 months Landlord Action, a specialist in tenant eviction, has seen a 15 per cent increase in the number of overcrowding tenancy cases, partly due to the recession.
London landlords are suffering the most with more cases than anywhere else in the country.
Paul Shamplina, director and co-founder, Landlord Action, said: “The most common cases appear to be organised gangs looking for an easy money making scam. They take out a tenancy and then sublet to multiple occupants. The worst case we have dealt with was a three bedroom, one bathroom, semi detached house in North London which was found to have had 53 occupants, all illegal immigrants.”
He said mattresses filled the floors from wall to wall in every available space with sanitation issues stretched to capacity. In another case, a tenant paid six-months rent upfront for a two bedroom flat in Victoria, but the landlord later discovered 18 sets of bunk beds had been installed and the property was in use as a youth hostel. A website in China was offering students visiting London accommodation at GBP 20 per night.
A good relationship with neighbours or caretakers is the best defence, said Shamplina, with most alarms raised by vigilant observers over noise levels or property disrepair.
With police unlikely to get involved, classing it as a civil matter, landlords are advised to speak to tenants directly to clarify the illegality of the situation and don’t accept rent payment once aware of the problem as this gives tenants authority. Also, Use a reputable lettings agency and reference taking service and insist on photo ID of tenants alongside seek legal advice.