Scandal of the ‘beds in sheds’ - Recorder reveals hundreds live in squalor in Redbridge
PUBLISHED: 08:00 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 09:28 11 April 2013
They are the blight of neighbourhoods, but the Recorder this week shines a light on the miserable existence of people forced to make “beds in sheds” their homes.
We speak to two people who have survived through a bitterly cold winter living in an abandoned Ilford outbuilding, who fear for their safety night after night.
Irute Sproge and Anton Stefanovic are two of hundreds of vulnerable people who are forced to live in squalor they describe as “horrid” and “scary”.
Some of these outbuildings have plastic sheeting instead of windows, exposed electrics and no running water.
And tenants pay £700 a month for the privilege.
The problem is caused by rogue landlords looking to squeeze as much money as possible out of the housing crisis with little concern for the impact on Redbridge neighbourhoods.
Residents say they have no idea who they are living next to and are angry at the strain the additional people are causing with rubbish, unhygienic conditions and concerns over safety.
Irute Sproge used to have a nice home and work as a nanny before she was made redundant and could not keep up with her rent.
For the past six months she has been sleeping in a cold garage with a corrugated roof and cannot lock the door at night.
While on the streets she met Anton Stefanovic, 45, and the couple moved into an outbuilding after hearing about it from a friend.
The couple are two of hundreds living in squalid conditions and, according to a migrant charity, are the type of people being targeted by rogue landlords.
Miss Sproge, 36, who moved here from Latvia seven years ago, said: “I lost my job and that’s how it started. It’s very scary, especially at night. I’m scared of being attacked. Without Anton I would not make it.”
She says she cannot go home as she grew up in foster care and has no family to support her.
“It’s impossible to survive there,” Miss Sproge added. “I want to stay here but the situation right now it very hard.”
The shed she sleeps in with Mr Stefanovic has a corrugated iron roof and is very cold, especially during the winter.
“It’s horrible, especially for a woman to live in these conditions,” he said. “It is scary at night especially with the people who take drugs. They could get in and who knows what could happen.”
Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, High Road, Ilford, said the couple are typical of those targeted by landlords.
She said: “Migrants are very susceptible. Rogue landlords know these people are vulnerable and that they don’t know the law. The problem in south Ilford is there’s a lack of housing.”
She said people come to the forum who live in tiny rooms with plastic sheeting instead of windows, dangerous electrics and gas systems. Some are paying £700 a month.
Rita added: “Many don’t have the right paperwork or don’t understand the system so are being exploited. Families are worried if they complain they will be kicked out. They’re stuck.”
Not knowing who you are living next to, concerns over safety and problems parking are some of the concerns raised by residents over “beds in sheds”.
All of the residents the Recorder spoke to were too frightened to be named as they feared being targeted by landlords if they spoke out.
A 48-year-old man from Woodlands Road, Ilford, said: “These people are not paying council tax. They are not contributing. The landlords are taking cash and should not get away with it. You don’t know who you’re living next to.”
He said that there are numerous houses in his road which have outbuildings illegally rented out.
“It’s not healthy or safe,” he added. “Everyone’s at it. Most of the people living there are vulnerable.”
Redbridge has been chosen as one of four boroughs nationally to receive funding to counter the problem of illegal outbuildings being rented out.
The £108,000 will be used to employ enforcement officers to stop buildings, such as garages or sheds, being rented.
Cllr Michelle Dunn, cabinet member for housing, said: “We are determined to crack down on unscrupulous landlords who believe they can make easy money from renting out illegal and unsafe places to house vulnerable residents.”
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