Happy Vale Hotel: Camden Council to take hostel's owners to court over 'squalid' conditions
PUBLISHED: 10:39 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:15 06 February 2019
As Camden Council issues court proceedings, we investigate conditions inside the notorious Happy Vale Hotel and find shocking evidence of mouse infestations, blocked toilets and broken plumbing - as five people live inside.
The owners of a notorious Camden hostel are being taken to court by the council for alleged breaches of the Housing Act over conditions at the dilapidated property.
Boutique hotel company Hospitality Zone LLP and partner in the firm Hanif Bhimji have been issued with a court summons in relation to Happy Vale Hotel, once dubbed “the worst hotel in Britain”.
Camden Council is taking action over six offences under the Housing Act 2004 and a court hearing has been scheduled for next month.
A council spokesman told the Ham&High: “The current licence holders… have failed to manage the property to the required standards, which has led to us taking renewed enforcement action, which is still ongoing.”
Happy Vale operates as a hostel for people on housing benefits despite being called a hotel - and conditions inside the Victorian terraced property in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent, are said to be squalid.
The Ham&High has seen evidence of rodents running over grimy kitchen counters, broken plumbing and blocked toilets.
In one video, a mouse is filmed eating a butter container left out on a kitchen worktop.
Inside the hostel, a fire door, which leads from the kitchen into an overgrown garden, has been padlocked shut and residents say they do not have a key.
Elsewhere in the house, sinks and toilets are blocked and there is no water to flush them with.
When contacted by the Ham&High, Hospitality Zone said there had been a legal dispute about the ownership of Happy Vale which had hampered it from carrying out repairs.
“The property requires work,” said a statement from the company’s solicitor. “Our client has not been entitled to do any work until it was registered as the legal owner.”
Hospitality Zone says it was unable to register ownership of the hotel for more than two years after buying it in November 2015.
“This meant that although it had bought the property it had no legal right to deal with it,” said the solicitor’s statement.
The company says the council’s court summons is supported by evidence that “entirely pre-dates Hospitality Zone’s legal ownership of the building”.
The solicitor told the Ham&High the padlock on the fire door was not installed or permitted by the company.
It said a third party is suspected of having caused damage and possibly having locked the door, but added this is being remedied.
It also said there have been squatters in the building.
“We understand some emergency work has been carried out, such as repair of fire alarms,” said the solicitor.
Camden Council has also come under fire for issuing a license to operate the property when conditions apparently remained questionable.
Denis Canon, 45, who has lived at Happy Vale for 17 years, said: “I feel let down by the council.
“There is no way human beings should be left here for as long as we have been.”
He is one of four long-term sitting tenants still living in the delapidated property and one other person is also currently believed to be residing there.
The council said it issued an HMO licence to Hospitality Zone in 2016 “because a licence was needed under the Housing Act 2004 and the application was satisfactory”.
In November the council fined the company for breaking the rules of its licence and it is now taking further action. Hospitality Zone did not appeal the fine.
A spokesman said: “Camden Council will always intervene robustly to improve standards in the private rented sector. This has been demonstrated at Happy Vale, where we took direct management control of the property between 2014 and 2016 in order to carry out essential repairs.
“Using our legal powers we took temporary control of the property on the basis that as soon as owners could be identified with appropriate financial standing, a commitment to ongoing standards and to licensing the property, then it would pass back to being in private management.
“The current licence holders met all these criteria at the time but have since failed to manage the property to the required standards, which has led to us taking renewed enforcement action, which is still ongoing.”
The court hearing is due to take place on May 3.