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Copthorne landlord prosecuted for ‘House of Horrors’

Shocking photos show the extent of the poor conditions.

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A local landlord has been prosecuted for failing to properly maintain and manage his property, which put the health and safety of his tenants at risk.

Mid Sussex District Council carried out an inspection of Grove House, Copthorne after receiving a number of complaints from tenants. The property, which is a House of Multiple Occupation, was found to be in an extremely poor state of repair.

The issues were so serious that the Council undertook immediate emergency repair works to ensure the safety of the tenants. The Council repaired unsafe electrics, removed combustible items from the stairwell, repaired a faulty fire alarm system and reinstated hot water and heating in the building.

Photos taken by MSDC Environmental Health Officers show the damp, mould, dangerous electrics and inadequate heating they found at the property.

Mid Sussex District Council issued the landlord, Mr Hamedur Choudhury, with an Improvement Notice that required him to rectify an extensive list of further defects and instructed him repay the cost of the emergency repair works. The property had serious problems with damp and mould growth, excess cold, pests and refuse, sanitation and drainage, electrical hazards and fire safety but Mr Choudhury failed to correct these issues.

On 25 April 2018, Mr Choudhury pleaded guilty at Crawley Magistrates Court to failing to comply with the terms of an Improvement Notice, as well as offences relating to the breach of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations and failing to licence a House of Multiple Occupation. The Magistrates’ Court fined Mr Choudhury a total of £17,012.89, including the Council’s costs.

“Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home,”

said Councillor Norman Webster, Cabinet Member for Community.

“The living conditions we discovered at this property were completely unacceptable. It was a real House of Horrors that put the health and safety of the occupants at serious risk.

“All rented accommodation must provide a safe and healthy environment for tenants and their visitors. If these standards are not being met our advice is always to inform the landlord first, to give them the opportunity to fix any problems. However, if a rogue landlord refuses to take their responsibilities seriously then we won’t hesitate to take action against them to ensure that they comply with the law.”

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Southern Rail joins train companies extending free train travel for survivors of domestic abuse

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Govia Thameslink Railway is supporting an extended nationwide initiative to help domestic abuse victims reach refuge accommodation by offering free train travel.

Govia Thameslink Railway’s Chief Operating Officer Steve White said:

“With the numbers of survivors of domestic abuse soaring during the pandemic, charities are expecting a surge in people trying to escape to a refuge when lockdown restrictions relax. Abusers frequently withhold money, which is why the free train travel we offer as an industry is so vitally important for the hundreds of victims making use of this scheme.”

Southern Rail and its parent company Govia Thameslink are joining other train companies in extending free train travel for survivors of domestic abuse until the end of March next year.

The move comes as figures show four survivors a day, on average, have been using the scheme and reports show that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions.  

Charities are bracing themselves for a surge in people fleeing abusive relationships when restrictions are lifted. The extension will help hundreds more people to take the train, for free, to reach a safe refuge.  

Rail to refuge is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid in which train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation. Since April, train operators have provided free tickets to 836 people, including 210 children. In other words, four survivors have travelled to safety each day on average using the Rail to refuge scheme. 

First introduced by Southeastern in September 2019 and then GWR on its routes in March 2020, all train operators joined the Rail to refuge scheme on 9 April with the original plan to keep it in place for approximately 12 weeks or for the duration of lockdown.  

However, with refuges expecting a spike in demand after the current national restrictions are eased, the scheme is now being extended for the rest of the financial year until the end of March 2021. This means hundreds more survivors will access free travel. 

The number of survivors of domestic abuse asking for help has soared during the pandemic. Women’s Aid reported a 41% increase in users visiting its instant messaging Live Chat site within the first two weeks of lockdown in March and as a result extended its opening hours to 10am – 4pm daily. Respect, which runs the Men’s Advice Line, has increased service hours from 46 to 75 hours weekly to support male victims, after seeing a huge increase in demand since March. 

Refuges expect to see the increase in demand across their services continue in the coming months as domestic abuse is worsening and abusers are using the pandemic as a tool for abuse. A recent Women’s Aid survey shows 61% of survivors living with their abuser reported that abuse worsened from March – June 2020, under tighter coronavirus restrictions.  

Many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. Free travel can be a lifeline for people fleeing abuse who may not have access to cash. Two-thirds (63%) of people that booked a journey through Rail to refuge said they would not have travelled if the journey had not been paid for. 

Nicki Norman, acting Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: 

Women face huge barriers in leaving an abuser. Notonly is it an extremely dangerous time, but many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. Women tell us that they simply cannot afford to leave because the perpetrator has controlled their money and they have none of their own. Many women and children escape to a refuge with nothing at all.  

Thanks to the rail industry removing the financial barriers of travel, hundreds of women have left abusive relationships and been able to access safety. It is welcome news that this important initiative is being extended, especially as the COVID 19 pandemic continues to severely impact survivors of domestic abuse.” 

Jacqueline Starr, Chief Operating Officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said: 

“We’re proud to have provided a vital lifeline for almost a thousand people escaping a desperate situation, but there are still too many women, men and children that need help. Our staff are working hard to support the survivors of domestic abuse with free train journeys while keeping the railway running for all the people, communities and local economies that rely on it.” 

Survivors of domestic abuse who would like to access the scheme, or need other support, can get in touch with Women’s Aid through their Live Chat service, open Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am – 12:00pm: https://chat.womensaid.org.uk 

If you would like to contribute to help survivors access the lifesaving support they need and help them reach refuge, please make a donation today: www.womensaid.org.uk/rail-to-refuge (link goes live on 23 November 2020, 00.01).

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