|The News Line: Editorial
Friday, 7 December 2018
Slum landlords flourish under the Tory attack on council housing
A ‘ROGUE’ landlord has been threatened by a judge with nine years in jail if he doesn’t pay a record-breaking £1.5 million fine for cramming families into insanitary, grossly overcrowded rooms in his properties across north London.
Vispasp Sarkari from Harrow in north London was ordered by the courts to pay back all the money he extorted from dozens of tenants after he carved up houses he owned into what the court heard were ‘substandard box-room bedsits’. Entire families were crammed into these ‘bedsits’ and charged hundreds of pounds a month in rent.
Sarkari was found guilty of ‘a flagrant abuse’ of planning laws for illegally converting his properties into these hell-holes without planning permission and for ignoring enforcement notices served on him by councils. This was not Sarkari’s first brush with the law. He ignored repeated enforcement notices to improve his properties, including requirements to ensure adequate fire safety provisions.
Last year, he was fined for cramming 27 people into a four-bedroom semi-detached house infested with cockroaches, damp, with insanitary bathrooms and rat-infested kitchens. For this, six families were charged around £650 a month in rent. Sarkari is not just a ‘rogue’ landlord, he is a millionaire slum landlord. In 2008, he was fined for breaches of fire safety and has been consistently fined for breaking health and safety regulations and planning permission.
Despite all the fines and warnings, Sarkari carried on regardless, secure in the knowledge that fines could either be ignored or were merely a pin-prick in his million-pound slum empire.
Sarkari is not alone; slum landlords are flourishing today as never before. Even official government figures put the number of these ‘rogue’ landlords at over 10,000 across the country and estimate that the vast majority of them own the 500,000 multi-occupancy houses in England.
Criminal gangs are reported to have latched onto the housing crisis as a means of making millions, exploiting people desperate for a roof over their heads. A government report released in January 2018 revealed that the Tories were well aware that organised gangs of these rogue landlords were enticing cash-strapped local authorities desperate to house the homeless into placing them in these houses converted into tiny and potentially dangerous bedsits.
The report concluded that these slum landlords are able to prosper because they meet the demand created by ‘the lack of social and affordable housing’. This lack of social and affordable housing was the direct consequence of the Tory policy started by Thatcher in the 1980s of selling off council homes.
This policy, carried on by successive governments, has resulted in a housing crisis today where even workers in full employment are forced onto the mercy of private landlords charging unaffordable rents. The destruction of decent affordable council housing has created the conditions where the slum landlords can flourish, secure in the knowledge that local councils will be reluctant to push too hard against them for fear of creating an even worse homeless crisis that they will have to deal with.
With at least one in ten private landlords operating an illegal ban on letting to tenants on housing benefit, the scope for criminal exploitation of workers and their families has never been greater. The working class will never accept being driven back to living in slums like those of the 19th century, forced to live in rabbit hutches, sharing toilets and at constant risk of disease and fire.
Workers are very rapidly rising up over housing and all the hated austerity attacks that the Tories have carried out to save the bankers and their bankrupt capitalist system.
The only way forward is for the working class to take the power and abolish capitalism through socialist revolution and advance to a socialist society that will expropriate the banks, the building industry and abolish the private landlords.
This will create the conditions for solving the housing crisis through a massive programme of house building to ensure that every worker and their family has the right to decent affordable housing.
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