An investigation into the lockdown model of housing. Flats as tiny as 10sqm are let to housing benefits claimants. The picture below is from a shared kitchen in one of these homes, which is supposed to serve 6 people.
These flats are packed into converted family homes. Planning permission is not sought for these flats as the developers claim they are homes in multiple occupation, HMOs. There is a general exemption from the need to get planning permission for single family homes being converted to HMOs.
However, when it comes to the rent, these units are frequently let out as single flats. The amount that can be claimed in housing benefit for a single flat is more than double the rate for a room in an HMO. The claimant is asked to fill out a form requesting that the council pay housing benefit directly to the landlord. The claimant receives no benefit from the higher housing benefit claim being made.
The lockdown model is an attempt to abuse loopholes in the planning and housing benefit regulations to extract the maximum housing benefits for landlords. It was first written about on ourcity.london in this excellent piece by Jon Knowles.
I subsequently wrote about the issue for the Sunday Times, with Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas. The story featured on the front page of the Sunday Times on 26 March 2017.
According to a group of councils which are investigating the model, there are over 6,000 of these properties in London alone.
On July, one lockdown landlord, Simon Low, was convicted of non-compliance with a planning enforcement order together with Manlow Developments ltd and Wise Estates over just one property. Manlow are currently appealing their conviction.
A writeup of that case can be found here.