A squalid ‘death-trap’ house that had six top-level health and
safety hazards and was so insecure squatters and drug addicts
walked in off the street is being taken over by Peterborough City
Council so that it can be renovated and managed to an acceptable
Action is also being taken to licence the two-storey Victorian
house in Cromwell Road, Peterborough, as a house in multiple
occupation (HMO). Despite several reminders by council officers the
owner has failed to apply for an HMO licence.
Following complaints from neighbours at the end of July, council
officers found a catalogue of serious hazards including:
- A gas pipe was not properly capped after a cooker had been
stolen, posing a risk of explosion if anyone put credit in the
meter. Transco had to attend as an emergency and make it safe.
- The boiler was inoperable, leaving tenants with no heating or
- The electricity meter had been by-passed, leaving scorch marks
from live cables and posing a serious risk of fire. Electricity
company E-on took emergency action to make it safe.
- Drainage pipes were blocked and stagnant kitchen waste water –
soaking into various duvets and pieces of carpet – was collecting
in sticking pools in a partially excavated, rubbish-strewn and
over-grown rear garden.
- There were no working lights in the kitchen.
- There were no fire alarms, fire doors or fire-fighting
- Stairs and banisters were damaged and there was refuse on the
first floor landing.
- Front and rear doors were insecure, allowing access by
strangers who left used hypodermic needles scattered around.
- The tenants – a couple sharing one ground-floor room and a
single man in an upstairs room – did not know the identity of their
landlord so had no means of reporting faults.
Despite repeated efforts over several weeks to persuade the
owner and her agent to rectify the faults, no action was taken.
Now, the council has made an interim management order under the
Housing Act 2004, giving it authority to take over the running of
unlicensed HMOs. It plans to spend around £25,000 on repairs and
recover the money, initially from rents but then from the owner
and, if necessary, from the sale of the property.
The interim management order runs until the beginning of
February but a further order can be made giving the council
management rights for up to five years if necessary.
Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for housing,
neighbourhoods and planning, Councillor Peter Hiller said: “This
was an appalling example of landlord exploitation of tenants who
were in a vulnerable position because they had no where else to
“Properties like this also denigrate neighbourhoods and the city
council will take immediate and uncompromising action whenever
necessary to ensure landlords – especially those running houses in
multiple occupation – provide acceptable accommodation, not only
for the benefit of their tenants but also for the amenity of their
Senior enforcement officer Joanne Hodges added: “We have a zero
tolerance policy when it comes to ensuring landlords provide safe
accommodation for tenants. This case should be a warning to all
other landlords who think they can defy the regulations. We will
track them down and take whatever action is necessary.
”This is the first interim management order made by the council
and I expect it to be the first of many as we have already
identified several more properties that the landlords have failed
to licence voluntarily.”
The city council has designated the Millfield and New England
areas of Peterborough as an additional licensing area, requiring
landlords to licence properties as houses in multiple occupation if
they have more than three occupants representing two or more
households. Failure to licence a property as an HMO is an offence
under the Housing Act 2004 with a maximum fine of £20,000.
Landlords who require more information should contact the city
council’s private rented housing enforcement team on (01733) 747474