Eight geotag journalists exploring your city. This week: Contrasting London.

Slums in London

By Valeria Testagrossa

Forced evictions, harassment, threatening. Just some of the actions that are becoming common among rogue landlords in london.

London is a leading global city, it is one the world's largest financial centre alongside New York and Hong Kong. In spite of this, there are people who live in conditions that should embarrass a developed, first world city such as London; and the law does not protect them.

WhereisLondon? Has a story for you.

Not far away from the heart of London’s financial hub, 10 people lived into a house in Stepney Green. Some of them studied, some worked and some did both; importantly all of them paid their rent.

The house was big, but was not in very good condition. The tenants asked the agency in charge to make some repairs; the heating didn’t work well, there was mold on the walls, they didn’t even have anywhere to throw their rubbish away.

After having asked for these repairs several times and receiving no reply or action from the agency, they decided to take action. They knew what would get the agents attention, so they stopped paying their rent.

Forced eviction

Week passed without anything happening. All that the tenants heard was a letter saying that they had to move out in one weeks time, because the agency had broken their contract with the owner.

At first the tenants started to panic, but then they realised this could not be a allowed under the UK’s housing laws, since they had a four months remainging on a six month. So they contacted Shelter and 'Tower Hamlets’ council and decided to fight for their rights.

The more they asked the more confident they were that this was an illegal eviction. They had the right to stay in the house and to call the police if anyone tried to throw them out.

They were told not to worry, if the landlord decided to cut the electricity or other amenities the Environmental Health Office would deal with that. They would send a notice and, if within a short time the landlord didn’t replace, he would be arrested.

So the residents of Stepney Green finally relaxed and relied on the Council and on Shelter to help them not have any problems.

Protection just in theory

Unfortunately the assurance existed only in theory. When the landlord cut the electricity, the tenants called the Environmental Health Office to hear that they could do nothing.

They had already many records of this landlord, but still didn’t have his real address and no investigation had been made about him.

In the end although it was illegal for him to cut off the electricity, no one would stop him from doing so.

The harassment did not end there. The gas was cut and nails and super glue filled the lock.

When they informed the police and the council, nothing was done. It was a tacit admission that small house related crimes are not given any importance at all in a city such as London.

“ We can’t do anything about it,” said Mr Basten, Environmental Health Officer of Tower Hamlet’s Council and added, “no great help calling the police.”

These people were left to live - in the cold, with no light, no gas, no hot water -most importantly with no protection at all.

Danger in your own home

One day, one girl was alone in the house. She heard some noises and she ran to the door, finding four men armed with a knife forcing the door.

They shouted at her to leave the house and threatened her. Eventually the police came after an hour and a half. This is how the law protects London’s tenants.

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