'We are not safe': Ealing residents protest over Perivale HMOs

By Rory Bennett - Local Democracy Reporter

23rd Apr 2024 | Local News

Protest against HMOs in Perivale outside Ealing Council (credit: Rory Bennett/MyLondon).
Protest against HMOs in Perivale outside Ealing Council (credit: Rory Bennett/MyLondon).

As local officials gathered for an evening meeting at Ealing Council offices they were met with a hail of chants from angry residents.

"No more HMOs", "Say 'no' to HMOs" and "Perivale is not for sale" were just some of the many slogans that rang out across the forecourt of the office's entrance as a crowd of furious residents called on the council for action.

This is not the first time the Perivale residents have unleashed their collective outrage upon the council with a feisty meeting between police, council officers, local councillors and, at times, apoplectic homeowners taking place just weeks prior.

The meeting has done nothing to quell rage about the council's perceived inaction to tackle an ever-increasing proliferation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which is said to have caused antisocial behaviour and disorder to those living nearby.

During the meeting, council officers confirmed that in the Medway Village area of Perivale, there were 28 registered HMOs however the number could be as high as double that due to the way these types of tenancies are registered.

Developers can convert homes into HMOs and even begin operating them and register the change retroactively, meaning knowing the exact number is difficult.

Residents who spoke to Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) say HMO numbers in the Medway area were much higher than the council was telling them. It is not just fury that characterises the response by residents of Perivale, but genuine fear.

The meeting contained tales of armed police standing on roofs, raids on HMO properties, and violent and antisocial behaviour. "We are not safe!" one woman had heckled, "you do nothing" another hectored as Cllr Tariq Mahmood attempted to calm the crowd.

The exchange concluded in an unsatisfactory fashion for residents with council officers telling them that the council couldn't do anything preventative to stop HMOs, informing the crowd that the corrective powers of local authorities boiled down to writing a strongly worded letter to the landlords.

The only thing left for residents was to make their frustration heard in a more direct fashion.

Wielding placards, signs and even a bullhorn, the tight-knit community of Perivale congregated to fight for the future of their neighbourhood against what they perceived as an ineffective council and greedy landlords.

Residents from Medway Village feel unsafe by HMO's and believe Ealing Council is not doing enough to protect the communtiy of Perivale (credit: Rory Bennett/MyLondon).

Speaking to the LDRS, one of the organisers from Medway Village said: "We are hoping to disrupt the councillors' meeting tonight just to show our anger.

The council has done absolutely nothing in regards of the proliferation of HMOs and have dealt with us individually and brushed us off, but now we have got together it is much more difficult to ignore us.

"We know we are in a housing crisis but the council has done absolutely nothing but to try and destroy the family life in Perivale and in our borough and we are here to say you need to stop.

They are filling the pockets of these greedy investors with our taxes so in a way we are feeding our own tormentors."

Everything from drug taking and dealing to machete attacks and robberies have been reported in Perivale in the past few years and many residents see the uptick in crime as inextricably linked to the rising number of HMOs.

Another woman from Rydal Crescent told the LDRS during the protest: "We have police and ambulances down our road all the time.

"Not that long ago, our road was cordoned off after someone from one of the HMOs had hit someone with a hammer, there is a lot of violence that happens around the HMOs. There's two new ones being built now.

"Every house that has been sold on our street has been turned into an HMO." She said she attended the protest due to concerns about antisocial behaviour and violence. "I have also seen open drug dealing," she said.

"My concerns are they are vulnerable people, they are very vulnerable people and it's very inadequate housing they are living in – it's like a prison cell. How are they supposed to get better if they put them all in the same place?"

Ealing Council says it is working with Medway Village residents to find solutions to their concerns (credit: Rory Bennett/MyLondon).

Debbie, also from Rydal Crescent, said she has lived in the area for 30 years and is shocked by what's happening. "Since I have lived in Perivale for 30 years I have seen the decline.

"What's been happening now, people don't even want to come out of their house to post a letter at the bottom of the road because they are too frightened when it's starting to get dark.

"Now we have all sorts of people on the road, antisocial behaviour, my daughter was accosted and had to call the police while on the way to the supermarket. There is just so much going on."

As part of the protesters' aims, there are calls for increased CCTV, better lighting and the enaction of Article 4 in their area.

Enacting an Article 4 direction would mean that a developer would have to apply for planning permission to convert a property from a family home to an HMO.

This would mean the creation of new HMOs would face far more scrutiny while planning applications offer the opportunity for residents to object to changes directly. In response to the protest, the council says this legislative measure is something it is looking into.

A council spokesperson said: "We have met with Medway Village residents, and listened to their concerns which we take very seriously.

"We want to work closely with them and the police to tackle antisocial behaviour (ASB) and criminal activity wherever it occurs.

"Where we find evidence that individuals are committing ASB or crime, we and the police will take action. Our priority is to improve how safe residents feel in their area.

"The council is working on proposals to introduce an Article 4 Direction to require future houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the borough to receive planning permission before they can be created.

"Council staff are currently working closely with the police to review and share information about the most problematic addresses that local residents have reported.

"In these cases, we will make formal contact with landlord/s to ensure tenancies are effectively and appropriately managed."

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