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Rogue landlord pleads guilty: housing up to 28 in his back garden

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In a case brought to court by Wycombe District Council, local landlord Vasile Dragan pleaded guilty to charges brought under the Housing Act 2004 and was ordered to pay a total of £13,373 in fines, costs and a victim surcharge.

The hearing was the result of a partnership between Wycombe District Council and Thames Valley Police working together following a police investigation where people were found living in conditions which were overcrowded, unsafe and illegal.

When council officers attended the site they discovered that people were living in a range of illegal outbuildings in the back gardens of two semi-detached properties at 163 and 165 Micklefield Road in High Wycombe.

Officers were shocked to see so many people packed into such a confined space.

Councillor Dominic Barnes, Deputy Leader of Wycombe District Council said:

“This is the worst case I have seen. This landlord has taken rent but not provided adequate living conditions for these tenants and has shown a total disregard for the laws of the land which exist to protect people from this kind of exploitation. I am proud that we were able to work so well with Thames Valley Police and take swift and effective action to put a stop to this illegal accommodation and bring the landlord to justice."

 When they arrived to inspect the property they found:

  • a single brick converted garage with a hallway, shower and toilet with bedroom with two single beds but no food preparation area

  • a pathway leading from this to a room in the roof of the building without any insulation which had four single beds placed along the walls and trailing electric extension cables between the beds and no smoke detector, no natural light or ventilation and no personal hygiene facilities.

  • a wooden garden shed with garden equipment including petrol mowers and power tools was sited behind a brick built barbecue exposed to the elements which was used for communal cooking by the occupants of the site. There was no other suitable food preparation area or cooking facilities.

  • a further brick building in the garden of 163 Micklefield Road with a porch and a lounge area It had a wall mounted boiler with exposed electrical wires which posed an electrocution hazard for the occupants and a cracked window.  This building also had a single shower room and toilet and wash basin which was shared by nine occupants sleeping in three bedrooms each with a double bed and a single bunk bed above it.  The legal requirement for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is one toilet for every five persons which should be separate from any shower.

  • officers also found the hot water was not working and the light fitting in the shower room had tape attached to it which covered exposed wires.  The battery operated smoke alarm did not work on testing. This would reduce the chance of people escaping from the property before being overcome by smoke in the event of a fire.

  • a further building in the garden of 165 Micklefield Road was set up to accommodate 13 people. It had a shower cubicle, toilet and wash basin and a bedroom with two bunk beds and a single bed. Further mattresses were stored on one of the upper bunks. A second bedroom contained four bunk beds and a third bedroom had a further four bunk beds.

The defendant has 21 days to appeal against this sentence.