Category Archives: Slavery in Sandwell

Pop-up brothels, slavery and landlords.

Sorry to write about such a distasteful subject, but this is something landlords need to look out for. There is a very good article in this week’s Spectator magazine by a landlord who let his property in good faith, to what he thought were ordinary tenants, only to find they had converted it into a ‘pop-up’brothel. You can find the story here.

 
Sadly, we have had our own examples of this occurring in Sandwell very recently. We are quite certain there are others just waiting to be discovered. Apart from the sex industry, we know that most of the other forms of exploitation that make up modern day slavery can be found in our area (see earlier posts here) and very often, based in ordinary privately rented flats and houses.

 
In the Spectator story, the apparently nice, respectable tenants the landlord let his flat to, turned out to be linked to serious organised crime. He had been far too trusting. You can never protect yourself completely against being taken in like this – but there are some things you can do. Make sure you get tenant references and then – carefully check those references are genuine. Be wary of anyone who offers to pay you rent several months in advance. That can often mean they want to keep you well away from the property because they are planning a use they want to keep hidden.

 
So make sure you have a mid-term inspection clause in the tenancy agreement to give you at least some access to the property and let the tenant know you intend to stick to it. Bear in mind that depending on the tenancy length and how soon you can reasonably ask for our first inspection, real problems might have already occurred before you can actually get in. As the name suggests, pop-up brothels come and go very quickly, by the time of your inspection, the damage might be done.

 
As profit margins can be high – culprits might be happy to cut and run after only a month a two and write off any rent they have paid in advance. You might find it a good idea to make friends with your property’s neighbours and ask them to let you know if they become aware of anything that worries them. After all, it’s in their interests to make sure that crime or any form of anti-social behaviour isn’t happening on their doorstep.

 
This particular problem and the other forms of modern slavery we see cause immense misery and suffering. The human cost should always be our first concern. But that doesn’t mean landlords aren’t entitled to worry about the impact on their businesses as well. When your property is occupied by criminals – the damage and financial and reputational costs to you can be immense.

 
If you do think that your property (or any other you know about) is being used for any form of modern slavery, including the sex trade, the official is advice is . . .

 
“If you see something suspicious, no matter how small, please call police on 101, the UK Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111”

 
Be on your guard.

 
Oliver

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Slavery … In Sandwell

slavery-in-sandwell

(photo credit; Hope for Justice)

I’m sorry to write about such a bleak, upsetting subject, but Modern Day Slavery and human trafficking are a very real problem, happening right now, in our area. Although this blog is about benefits and housing issues, it’s a duty on all of the council to help when and where we can. And any landlord reading this, might be in a position to spot some of the signs that slavery or trafficking is happening in or near a property they have a connection with.

Modern slavery with an estimated 10,000 or more victims in the UK, takes many forms. It covers everything from sexual exploitation and prostitution, to unpaid domestic work, forced labour for little or no pay, or making people take part in crime such as pick pocketing, cannabis farming and begging. And we know that some of these things are happening here in Sandwell from actual cases that Sandwell Council officers, local police and our partner agencies have been involved in.

We particularly want landlords to be alert on this subject as most victims are housed in privately rented properties. Respectable, law-abiding landlord (the overwhelming majority) might think it’s a stretch to link their properties to slavery or organised crime. But even when landlords are careful to check out prospective tenants, they can still be taken in by apparently respectable criminals able to conceal how the property will end up being used. The key thing landlords can do is mid-tenancy inspections of properties. If you don’t already include these in your tenancy agreements, its strongly recommended that you should. (Its good practice anyway – quite apart form slavery issues). Make sure you know not just who is in your property, but what’s going on in and around it.

If you have concerns, report them. Contact the police’s non emergency number 101. More information is available at: http://hopeforjustice.org/aboutus/ and do be careful when you give a tenancy on one of your properties to someone you don’t know.

Oliver