In mid July I received a visit from a woman whose pregnant daughter had been housed in uncompleted student accommodation. One visit to Seth Court, Parmiter Street, Bethnal Green was shocking. Three became harrowing.
This block was designated for students, it was incomplete and the new owner was using it to house vulnerable people, young mothers and others with drink and drug problems.
I found incomplete ceilings, wires hanging free, a fire escape, blocked with building materials and uncompleted windows, a balcony with wobbling rails and as can be seen in this picture floors with windows opening directly outwards, with no catches and a four story drop. The property had not been cleared by building control or the fire service.
Vulnerable people were being “directed” by housing officers to take up private tenancies and of course housing benefit would pay. The weekly rent is £255 per week.
As well as dozens of young mothers, I met a man hardly able to stand because of the effect of drugs; another was walking corridors with a Staffordshire bull terrier, with no lead. Residents described a prostitute on her knees, in the common areas servicing men who were waiting in line!
There are no letter boxes and so mail is delivered to the owner. He carefully sorts mail and opens letters from the council or other authorities. If cheques are made payable to him he banks them, if not he sends them back. One resident, Toyah, received notification that all her benefits would cease because they had been sent back. Of course the cheque had been made payable to her. Another, Kathleen, received demands that she pay the landlord in cash, or else. Yet another, Charlee, was missing medical appointments because of intercepted mail.
The owner is a man called Yusuf Sarodia who lives in Ilford. He runs a company, which is difficult to identify because it is registered but there are no accounts and the postcode has an incorrect letter. It can be traced to a vacant plot in Hackney.
Yusuf Sarodia, when he learned that residents were speaking to the local press and councillors, served eviction notices on some residents. He threatened the local paper and called me to say “you are a councillor now, you might not be tomorrow.”
The police have been informed about the threats and the council are promising not to send any more vulnerable people here.
From the top floor of this building you can actually see the Olympic site.
In late July I met Rachel, a young woman who was renting a one bedroom property on Commercial Road, E1. Rachel is in work and this was available. It was, she thought, a one time council property purchased under Right to Buy. The landlord was a young man who eventually gave her notice to quit, which became difficult with her losing possessions including her cat.
Discussions with neighbours established that this property was not actually his. It was a council tenancy and in the name of his grandmother, Mrs Bibi.
Having made an enquiry I was told, and I quote the letter exactly, “I can confirm that we are currently dealing with a request to assign the tenancy from Mrs Bibi (who is absent from the property) to her grandson.
Hold on, this is a one bedroom flat. Were grandmother and grandson sharing a room? Mrs Bibi is “absent from the property”, where and how?
Fortunately Rachel has bank evidence, driving licence and other information to prove that she and not the young man was actually resident in this flat.
Will the council check where Mrs Bibi and her grandson are living? Do they receive benefits in respect of this flat? Will the tenancy be assigned?
Do not hold your breath.