Landlord and director hit with fines over 'dangerous' housing of Ipswich restaurant workers

Spoon World in Ipswich Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Workers from Spoon World Buffet in Ipswich were being housed in dangerous conditions - Credit: Archant

A landlord company and its former sole director have been fined a total of £60,000 after being convicted of housing Ipswich restaurant workers in "dangerous and overcrowded" conditions without House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licences.

Following a trial at Colchester Magistrates' Court yesterday, the landlord, Shen Residences Limited, was fined a total of £40,000 for the offences and its former sole director, Zhiqiang Shen, who subsequently resigned, was fined £20,000.

Picture of the conditions at Woodbridge Road, Ipswich.

Workers from Ipswich's Spoon World Buffet restaurant were being housed in overcrowded conditions. A picture from the premises in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich. - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

The trial followed a lengthy investigation by environmental health officers from Ipswich Borough Council’s private sector housing team which started in June 2019 after they were alerted to the condition of two neighbouring premises in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, by a council tax inspector.

Despite initial attempts by the landlord to mislead the investigation, it emerged that the addresses were used to house workers from Ipswich's Spoon World Buffet restaurant in dangerous and overcrowded conditions and without HMO licences. 

One room, containing four bunkbeds and personal belongings, was found to be so dangerous that environmental health officers were forced to serve an emergency prohibition order banning its use for sleeping with immediate effect.

Conditions for workers at Granville Street, Ipswich

The conditions at Granville Street, Ipswich - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

In the absence of co-operation from the landlord, the two premises and a further building in Granville Street, Ipswich, were visited during early morning operations with police and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority in both August and October, 2019, and in February 2020.

On all visits, the houses were found to have unacceptable living conditions which breached HMO management regulations and all three premises were being run without HMO licences.

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Magistrates in Colchester returned guilty verdicts on all charges, and said the actions of the landlord were "deliberate and persistent".

As well as the fines, both Shen Residences and Shen, of Manor Road, Chatham, Kent, were ordered to pay £8,931 in legal costs and a £190 victim surcharge.

The conditions at Granville Street, Ipswich

The conditions at Granville Street, Ipswich. - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

Alasdair Ross, Ipswich borough councillor and portfolio holder for community protection, said: "This case shows Ipswich Borough Council won’t tolerate residents being put at risk in either sub-standard or unlicensed HMO accommodation and will take the steps to hold to account those responsible for such.

“My message to the sector is that we welcome well-managed and licensed HMOS but will act with all our powers against those who flout the law.”