Congolese could be forced to repair ambassador’s Suburb home

The Democratic Republic of Congo could be forced to put its ambassador’s Hampstead Garden Suburb home in order - after it emerged the property is not protected by diplomatic immunity.

Squatters have occupied the Holne Chase residence for almost four weeks – a mere eight months after another group of squatters were evicted from the property.

The �4million house has fallen into disrepair, with boarded-up windows and rubbish spilling out of the ambassador’s home.

The Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust has refrained from taking action so far, working on the assumption that the house was protected under diplomatic immunity.

But the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed that the property is not a “diplomatic premises”.

A spokesman said the ambassador’s principle residence and the embassy are the only premises classed as “sovereign territory”.

The Trust has passed the information onto its legal team and could ask the Congolese to repair the property.

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Failing that, the Trust could take on the work themselves and then bill the African state for the work, according to Trust sources.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “The house is owned by Congo. We do not regard the property as ‘diplomatic premises’. Action can be taken.

“We have asked the Congolese embassy what their plans are and requested that they co-operate with the authorities.”

The Congolese embassy was not available for comment.

A neighbour, who claims to have contacts at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s London embassy, said he believes the property is set to be refurbished, despite the home lying empty since 2006.

Next-door neighbour Elissa Bennett, who is bed-bound, said she feared for her safety and complained that the squatters were stacking bags of rubbish against her home.

The 90-year-old, who has lived in the property for 50 years, said she has laid down rat poison to stop the spread of vermin.

“I feel it’s a health hazard,” she said. “It’s never been this bad before and the only thing we’re allowed to do is put rat poison down on our own premises. I would like to see the premises emptied because the place is in a dreadful state.”

A woman, who is squatting in the house, spoke from a first-floor window and said: “We are just living here. If the neighbours are concerned they can come and talk to me, so that’s it.”