LANDLORDS are being prosecuted in increasing numbers for allowing ‘beds in sheds’ on their properties.
But in figures just released by Hillingdon Council – which it admits can only be a ‘best guess’ – there may be 2-3,000 instances of this type of illegal accommodation in the borough.
Not only are the numbers hard to quantify, the offenders are hard to catch, as landlords can quickly empty the sheds if they think they are about to be caught.
The unauthorised conversions of outbuildings into accommodation, known as ‘beds in sheds’, often provides very cramped living conditions.
The buildings can be dangerous and tend to be built in the back gardens of houses, but it can be a lucrative business.
The council now has a team of officers whose sole job is to tackle the problem, and in the last six months there have been seven prosecutions of landlords.
“We have issued 17 enforcement notices [orders to stop] and initiated seven prosecutions in the last six months alone,” said Councillor Keith Burrows, the council’s cabinet member for planning matters.
“Renting sheds or outbuildings not only flouts planning laws but also puts our residents at risk. This type of accommodation is often unsafe and our officers have been horrified by some of the conditions they have seen people living in,” he said.
In a report that went before the cabinet recently, a count of Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) in Hayes, applied to the borough as a whole, put the number of beds in sheds at somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000.
Officers say there is often, but not always, a correlation between HMOs and ‘tacked on’ illegal accommodation at the same property and used this as a basis for the calculation.
Mr Burrows said: “We will continue to take action against rogue landlords and hope that this will deter others who hope to line their pockets by taking advantage of tenants in this way.”