Anyone with information on slum landlords who throw Gurkha veterans out of their homes during the day should contact Greenwich Council, one of its cabinet members has said.
Jackie Smith spoke out after 853 reported this week on the plight of many members of south-east London’s Nepalese community, who have struggled to cope amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The report, by freelance journalist Sam Davies, detailed how many Gurkha veterans are not able to receive the same pensions as other British soldiers, and so end up living in overcrowded accommodation. They are locked out of their homes during the day, and are left to wander the streets – and are often victims of robberies while they find somewhere to go.
Many of the landlords are in Plumstead, where groups of Nepalese people trudging around the area are a regular sight, locals have told 853 this week.
The story was raised by Conservative councillor Matt Hartley on Thursday night’s full council meeting. He said the story “highlighted the appalling treatment of the Nepalese community by landlords who are continuing to lock people out of their homes during the day”.
“This is an utterly horrific and abusive practice at any time, and it’s even more serious that the landlords are continuing this even during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. (Watch from 48.20.)
But Smith said while the landlords’ actions were “reprehensible behaviour”, the council lacked hard evidence which it could act upon.
She said that while she had read the story, “the problem is that it’s anecdotal. We have heard this said for some time, but when we attempt to get clear evidence, it’s not forthcoming.”
“Officers are continuing to work on that, we got some funds to do that, but all I can say is that if anybody, including the person who was quoted in the article, has any concrete examples and are willing to provide us with concrete evidence, we will act,” she added.
Smith said that council officers had recently secured the prosecution of a landlord who was housing five vulnerable people “in what only can be described as a shed” and then tried to evict them. The woman only received a suspended sentence because she had to look after her children.
“We do take every complaint about the behaviour of landlords – particularly when there are threats and intimidation involved – very, very seriously,” she said. “If anybody can help with that, I’ll be really glad to listen to it.”
Three years ago, the council passed a motion to “to find all of these landlords and to ensure they comply with the licensing regulations”.
The motion was proposed in March 2018 by the Shooters Hill councillor Sarah Merrill, who said former Gurkhas were left to “spend their days in betting shops because they have nowhere else to go”. She also said that some landlords operated a bed-share system, where tenants either stayed during the day or during the night.
At the time, Smith also complained of a lack of evidence to track down the rogue landlords.
To report a landlord, visit the Greenwich Council website, email hmo-licensing[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk or call 020 8921 8157.
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