HUNDREDS of homes face being seized and placed into public hands as part of a £50 million crackdown on unscrupulous slum landlords.

Glasgow City Council has set aside the money to buy up 500 properties in the Govanhill area after new powers revealed shocking squalor at some properties, and landlords with serious criminal convictions.

In the past nine months, a total of 22 landlords with millions of pounds worth of homes in the Govanhill area have been banned from renting properties. The figure includes nine from the last month alone.

They all now face being forced to hand over their properties under compulsory purchase laws, unless they agree to sell them to the authority.

According to a Sunday Mail investigation, the ‘rogue’ landlords include Akhtar Ali, 49, who was banned earlier this year after two people were injured after fire broke out at one of his flats in Glenapp Street.

A subsequent inspection of his seven properties in Govanhill uncovered a range of failings, including a lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. One flat was found to have no hot water, while gas and electricity meters had been by-passed.

Another landlord, Johar Mirza, from Thornliebank, was removed from the Landlord Register after a council probe discovered five substandard flats valued at more than £400,000. One in Allison Street, was found to have substandard heating, hot water, drainage, electrics and cooking facilities.

Most of the pair’s properties are in the Glasgow constituency of the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and are home to immigrants, many of them from Eastern Europe. She has welcomed the council’s moves to tackle the issue.

The crackdown follows a series of raids by a new council inspection team set up after the authority became the first in Scotland to seek new powers under Enhanced Enforcement Area (EEA) laws, enabling them to enter rented properties suspected of falling below standard.

During some of the raids, inspectors were confronted with shocking scenes of disrepair and squalor, including dangerous electrics, broken toilets, holes in ceilings and floors and no hot water. Outside rodent infested closes and courtyards were found to be strewn with litter, rotting food and faeces.

Tenants, many of them living in overcrowded accommodation, were being charged up to £500 a month.

Under the EEA powers, council inspectors can also compel landlords to produce insurance and safety certificates and undergo thorough criminal checks.

The council has set aside £48m to buy up rented properties in the area, and return them to public housing stock.

Richard Brown, executive director for development and regeneration services at Glasgow City Council, said: “Govanhill has been an area of the city where particular problems with landlords have been identified. The additional powers available to us are helping us to improve standards.”

Councillor Mhairi Hunter, of Glasgow City Council’s Govanhill Taskforce, saidthe crackdown was aimed at getting rid of bad landlords and creating a balance within the housing stock. She said: “In south west Govanhill, 60 per cent of the flats are private rented homes. We are trying to rebalance that so there is more social housing and people buy property to live there rather than rent it out.“The council have the right to demand high standards from landlords, otherwise they will ultimately be taken to task."

“The Enhanced Enforcement Area is going to be rolled out across a further 14 blocks and I fully anticipate its initial success will be repeated.”


Background: Vibrant area scarred by housing problems, fly-tipping and poverty

By Gavin Pennie

GOVANHILL is an historic housing district that is in desperate need of a clean slate.

The area is dominated by tenement housing, most of it built between 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War.

For more than a century, it has been a popular settlement area, whether temporary or permanent, for people coming to Glasgow.

And, today, it is hailed as one of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in Scotland.

However, the shocking state of some properties in Govanhill makes life a misery for many of its residents.

After the Second World War, Glasgow adopted a policy of large-scale demolition of slum housing.

This saw the dispersal of people living in crowded innercity communities to a new generation of council estates at the edge of the metropolis.

Govanhill, however, was one of the communities which largely escaped the bulldozers.

Decades later, poverty is high and worker exploitation is commonplace.

And it seems that instability in the European Union is partly to blame for its modern-day problems, with support agencies reporting a rise in migrants in the run-up to the EU referendum in June last year.

There are dozens of different languages spoken in Govanhill, with large communities from countries such as Romania and Slovakia settling in the area.

With limited income, many are forced to accept living in crowded, squalid conditions, with no shortage of rogue landlords waiting in the wings to take advantage.

Rubbish on the streets and repeated fly-tipping simply add to the woes.

However, despite its problems, Govanhill remains a remarkably vibrant place.

Children still play on the streets, residents stop to chat as they pass each other and there are shops with eye-catching displays of colourful produce.

Also, the low rents bring in artists and students, which adds to the cosmopolitan vibe.

When you speak to people in Govanhill, it is not pity they seek – simply the same opportunities enjoyed by those living elsewhere.

Tough action on slum landlords who are in the business of exploitation seems an ideal place to start in addressing the area’s woes.