How this 4-bed house had up to 27 people crammed inside in terrible living conditions
PUBLISHED: 16:30 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 19:43 12 December 2019
An Ipswich letting agent and two of its directors have been found guilty of running an unlicensed house of multiple occupancy containing up to 27 people.
Jay and Ralph Bernard, directors of Masons Estates, had denied managing the four-bed home in Harland Street as an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence last November and failing to respond to statutory notices requiring information about the land.
Following prosecution by Ipswich Borough Council at Suffolk Magistrates' Court, both directors and the St Helen's Street firm were also found guilty of 17 Housing Act regulation breaches, including failing to maintain an escape route in the event of a fire.
- Exposed wires from a missing hallway smoke detector
- A lack of bedroom, living and dining space, toilets and bathrooms for the number of occupants
- Poorly maintained water supply and drainage and faulty hobs
- Unsafe kitchen sockets and filthy floors
- Bannisters missing spindles
- A loose stair carpet
Other failures included the gas supply being interrupted without good reason, while scorch marks indicated electrics had overheated in a first floor bathroom, where foul water leaked into the floor to the room below.
Bath water ran constantly in a second floor bathroom and elsewhere an internet modem was hard wired into a light fitting.
Outside, the garden contained clothes, shoes, beer cans, cigarette butts, broken storage units, tyres, and a caravan containing bedding and food waste.
Magistrates said they found credible the evidence of a council officer who reported between 14 and 27 people had been inhabiting the property before a joint operation was carried out with police on November 21.
They found an employee had raised overcrowding issues after visiting on October 4, but that Masons failed to act promptly.
Solicitor Ian Persaud had argued the directors and company had a reasonable excuse for not complying because they were unaware the property was being inhabited by any more than named tenants up until the day all occupants were evicted.
He said it was "beyond their ability to control the abuses that house suffered".
The directors and company will be sentenced in the new year.
The status of those inhabiting the property is part of an ongoing investigation.
Masons were contacted for further comment.