August 2 2014 Latest news:
by Paul Wright
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Property investors from across London have been flocking to buy what has become known as “Britain’s worst hotel” – with cash offers ranging from £1.8million to, bizarrely, just £1.
In a sign of the capital’s crowded property market, the landlord of the Happy Vale Hotel, Mornington Crescent, says he has been forced to leave his phone off the hook as estate agents and developers try to snap up the troubled property.
Owner Stephen Gethin, 62, became famous after the Ham&High and national news outlets reported on the raw sewage, cockroaches and leaking ceilings plaguing his five-storey building in Harrington Square.
It followed court action brought by Camden Council against landlord Mr Gethin for breaches of his House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence – which resulted in £20,000 of court fines and costs.
But Mr Gethin’s troubles with the council and the condition of his bedsit-style hotel seems to have only furthered interest from top property moguls.
“The phone has been off the hook with interest,” said Mr Gethin. “People have come in chauffeur-driven cars offering seven-figure cash sums. I’ve had nine offers, all offering large amounts.
“But selling this place will be a last resort. I have to think about my tenants – many of whom are vulnerable – and I’m worried about where they’ll go.”
In a bizarre twist, Mr Gethin even received an anonymous letter containing a £1 coin – which he is convinced has come straight from Camden Council.
“I went to pick up the post and among all the letters offering me millions for the property, I saw a distinct and very official looking letter,” he said.
“I noticed it was the same as the ones I get from the housing benefits office. But when I opened it all I found inside was a £1 coin.
“I was a bit confused – and then thought it must have been a wind-up by someone from the council.
“I’ve spent it now, but it’s not what I wanted from the council.
“All I want now is to get some help so I can fix the place up and get back to managing the property and helping my tenants.”
A spokesman from the council accused Mr Gethin of fabricating the story, adding: “Our housing team has offered advice and support to him in relation to accessing grants to bring the horrendous conditions up to standard.
“These have so far been refused.”