- Desperate residents were packed into the Grade II listed site in Colchester, Essex
- Shockingly one room in the property even had bins labelled ‘clinical waste’
- The residents were exploited by Camelot Guardian Management Company
A ‘slum’ landlord has been fined for illegally cramming 30 tenants into a disused crumbling care home.
Desperate residents were packed into the Grade II listed site in leafy Colchester, Essex, which had blocked fire escapes, drains overflowing with sewage, exposed wiring and collapsing staircases.
Shockingly one room in the property even had bins labelled ‘clinical waste’ which inspectors say gave off a ‘foul odour’.
Pictures from inside the century-old converted rectory – which residents paid up to £315 a month for – show peeling floors next to tiny beds in stark rooms full of broken furniture.
Confidential documents were also littered across the overgrown site including correspondence about the conditions in the damp-blighted care home, where tenants were forced to share one kitchen.
They were exploited by Camelot Guardian Management Company as part of a property guardianship scheme – where people live in empty commercial buildings for reduced rents.
The firm also ignored residents pleas for repairs and did not fix a faulty fire alarm system, sealed doors, blocked toilets, and bathrooms with no hot water.
After repeated calls to the firm about the Old Rectory outraged residents went to Colchester Borough Council and it emerged the company did not have a House in Multiple Occupation licence.
When the breaches were uncovered in January 2018 the tenants were evicted and forced to find a new home as a prosecution was launched.
Camelot was found guilty of 15 offences relating to the licence and the dangerous condition in March.
But the company has since gone into administration and escaped with minimal fines for what officials dubbed ‘serious’ offences.
They are now trading under a new name, Watchtower Security Solutions, also known as Watchtower Property Management, with the same company director.
On Friday District Judge Barron had no alternative but to issue a nominal fine of £1,500 – £100 for each of the 15 offences – and ordered the company to pay the council’s full costs of just under £10,000.
University research assistant Nicola Gillin , 34, lived in the property for several months and slammed the sentence.
She said: ‘It is rubbish, it is not a deterrent at all, but it is what these companies do – it is an absolute scam.
‘The conditions were really bad it was like a slum, it is not what I signed up for.
‘When I turned up it was smelly and dirty but improvable – I was living there on my own when I first moved in.
‘I was very clear what I was signing up for, however it was the overcrowding issue that was the problem.
‘They just started putting loads of us in there until there were 30 people living there and the house started deteriorating.
‘We had sewage leaks, we had 30 people sharing one kitchen – it was appalling.
‘A lot of people in that house had social issues too and problems with alcohol and drugs, what you would class as vulnerable members of society.’
She added: ‘It is not just the slum conditions I had a problem with, it was also about the violation of my privacy.
‘They treated us like we didn’t have any housing rights, they feel like they have the right to come into your room at any time if they have a key.
‘It was disgraceful behaviour, from the top to the bottom they were absolutely rotten people.’
Camelot managed the property as a HMO for eight months without a licence between June 2017 and February 2018.
Source: Daily Mail
Author: Amelia Wynne
Date: 12th of January 2020