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Behind the doors of Britain’s ‘worst hotel’ - sewage, cockroaches and vulnerable tenants

Residents of the HappyVale Hotel - dubbed 'the worst hotel in Britain' - turn out to support landlord Stephen Gethin (front) at Highbury Magistrates Court. Picture: Tony Gay Residents of the HappyVale Hotel - dubbed 'the worst hotel in Britain' - turn out to support landlord Stephen Gethin (front) at Highbury Magistrates Court. Picture: Tony Gay

Thursday, April 24, 2014
11:00 AM

It’s been dubbed “the worst hotel in Britain” and its owner was recently accused by a judge of exhibiting a “callous disregard for the safety and welfare of vulnerable residents”.

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Tenants at the HappyVale Hotel in Mornington Crescent have suffered windows opening to raw sewageTenants at the HappyVale Hotel in Mornington Crescent have suffered windows opening to raw sewage

Residents have had to suffer raw sewage, leaking ceilings, breakfasts interrupted by cockroaches and a constant smell of stale cigarettes.

Two weeks ago, Stephen Gethin, the landlord of the HappyVale Hotel in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent, was fined £13,000 and deemed unfit to manage a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

With the welfare of “some very vulnerable residents” in mind, Cllr Julian Fulbrook, Camden’s cabinet member for housing, said the prosecution “sent a very clear signal that we will not tolerate this kind of situation”.

But questions have also been raised over the support given to the destitute residents who live at the HappyVale Hotel.

The room of one of the tenants seen by Camden Council's adul social care team during a visit to the HappyVale Hotel last ThursdayThe room of one of the tenants seen by Camden Council's adul social care team during a visit to the HappyVale Hotel last Thursday

Several are vulnerable adults sent by charities or religious organisations for housing. One woman on anti-psychotic drugs roams the corridors “like a zombie”, it is said.

Another pensioner suffering from kidney and heart failure lives ankle-deep in his own filth, and a retired Transport for London worker can barely speak and is thought to have suffered an as-yet undiagnosed stroke.

Ken Macleod, a diabetic, lived for months with soiled bandages and ulcers infected with faeces before the Ham&High called an ambulance for him two weeks ago.

All live at the HappyVale, yet beyond seeing their landlord fined for safety violations, none say they have been offered any care or support from authorites – until last week.

Betty, a resident left unable to cook for herself due to the side-effects of anti-psychotic drugs she is injected with every week, said: “After what happened to Ken they came and asked us all questions, about what kind of help we might need and to assess us. It’s the first time I’ve seen them.”

Following the Ham&High’s report about pensioner Mr Macleod the head of the adult social care team at Camden Council visited the five-storey townhouse with two social workers last Thursday.

The investigation resulted in several residents immediately being offered support for the first time – including Vicky Barker, a former TfL worker who stopped speaking properly over two years ago and is thought to have suffered a stroke.

Residents insisted the only person who had helped them over the years had been their landlord – responsible for the conditions at the bedsit-style hotel. Four residents even appeared at the landlord’s court case to support him.

“He takes care of people when they need it, feeds residents and even clothes those who aren’t looking after themselves properly,” explained resident Mary.

Following the visit, a council spokesman said: “None of the tenants currently housed at HappyVale were known to our adult social care services. However, help and support was offered to a number of residents after speaking with them. We cannot force people to engage with our services but will continue to make ourselves available should they wish to take up our offers in future.”

Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust is responsible for those suffering mental health difficulties.

Mr Gethin, who took over the hotel from his mother who bought it 80 years ago, blamed loan repayments for his failure to make repairs. “For the first time the council has sent some people who seem to genuinely want to help the residents. The rest have just come to fine me and they didn’t care about the people actually living here.”

“I want to do repairs but I need financial support to do them.”

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