HMO links with modern slavery investigated by housing officers in Northampton

Housing enforcement officers at The Guildhall have been visiting HMO properties
Housing enforcement officers at The Guildhall have been visiting HMO properties

‘Credible’ links with victims of modern slavery living in unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) have been investigated by council officers in Northampton.

Northampton Borough Council’s housing enforcement team has carried out joint visits with the police to some HMO properties, according to cabinet member for housing Councillor Stephen Hibbert.

In his latest monthly report to full council, to be read by councillors at next Monday’s meeting (November 4), Councillor Hibbert writes: “In recent weeks, the Housing Enforcement Team has undertaken joint visits with the Police Intelligence Team to properties where intelligence has indicated that they are licensable HMOs operating without an HMO licence and there are credible links to modern slavery.”

In April the Department of Justice highlighted risks of modern slavery linked to houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) and the possibility that council employees might come across potential victims living in substandard accommodation during HMO inspections.

Councillor Hibbert says that the housing enforcement team is ‘working very closely’ with the police, fire service, gangmasters, trading standards and immigration in order to provide a ‘targeted, joined-up approach’ to ensure that criminal landlords do not financially benefit from their offences.

He goes on to say: “Visits have also been requested by the fire & rescue service. As a result of these visits, it has been possible to identify unlicensed and overcrowded HMOs, and basements that have no natural lighting or fire safety. Prohibition orders have been imposed and, where appropriate, landlords will be prosecuted or receive a civil penalty.”

He added that the appointment of a new housing enforcement manager at the end of August has resulted in a ‘marked increase’ in the amount of housing enforcement activity that is being taken against ‘criminal, rogue and irresponsible landlords in the borough’.