CROYDON's affordable housing shortage has reached such a crisis point, a family of five has been forced to share a single room.
A lack of housing, the impact of welfare reforms and the rising number of homeless people is piling the pressure on private lets.
According to the 2011 census, 19.8 per cent of Croydon's residents live in private rents – more than 4 per cent higher than the national average.
There are currently almost 7,000 people on the waiting list for social housing which houses only 9.8 per cent of Croydon's population.
On average, a private four bed property in Croydon is priced at £323 to £433 a week and has increased in price by 10 per cent in the last year alone.
According to the council's borough profile from 2009, the barrier to housing was one of the "most pressing issues in Croydon. Unlike other forms of deprivation, areas in the south and centre of Croydon fall into the 20 per cent most deprived in England".
On top of this, the last set of data on private lets, from 2008, found 37 per cent of private housing falls below the decent home standard.
Of privately rented houses, 15 per cent were classed as "unfit" because of dangerous structures or kitchens not fit for preparing food.
In converted flats, the rate was 16.8 per cent.
Many families are forced to "choose" overcrowded or sub-standard private rents because a shortage of money and the failure to move up the social housing list.
Andy*, from South Croydon, told the Advertiser how he had been forced to house himself, his wife and three children in one room above a shop.
They share a kitchen and a bathroom with the tenant in the next-door room.
Andy said: "It is very hard. There is one bed in the room and I have to push the sofas together so we all have somewhere to sleep.
"My children are small and my wife gave birth to a baby only three months ago.
"It is not a good way to bring up your children and my wife is constantly scared for them.
"I worry for their health. There is nowhere for them to go. In this heat, we can barely breathe."
Andy pays £120 a week for the room and has recently had to claim housing benefits after his work shifts were reduced a month ago.
"I am down at the job centre every day but nothing is coming up and I had to claim benefits to help pay the rent. I feel very responsible for my family.
"We have been on the waiting list for social housing for two years but the council says it is fine for five people to live in one room so we get no help."
The family's landlord, Alan*, said his tenant had originally lived there alone but could now find nowhere else to go.
He said: "The council have too many people to deal with."
Any house with more than five unrelated people living together needs a HMO (house with multiple occupancy) licence. The council has estimated there are 2,800 houses in multiple occupation in Croydon, but only 800 are known to the council.
A spokesman from the council said it "carried out spot checks to find out if properties are being used as HMOs and would therefore require a licence."
According to the council's housing strategy, it would cost £227 million to improve all private homes, including non-rented properties, to a decent standard.
*Names have been changed to protect identitiesDilapidated houses impact on society BADLY maintained properties are also having a wider effect on local communities, according to Charlotte Davies, a member of the South Croydon Community Association. "Rents are soaring and people are not getting richer. Normally couples would move from here and go south. Now they have to have their families here in small flats. "Then there is the benefit cap which has hit Croydon – rents are expensive and people are now crowding into houses to be able to afford it. "There is very little regulation of private lets by the council either. When we report a house which is insanitary – bins everywhere, leaking water or worse sewage, mattresses dumped – nothing is done." For one particular house in Aberdeen Road, the running water and dumped rubbish attracted a nest of rats running about in broad daylight. Mrs Davies had to pay the Land Registry to find out who the agents and the owners were so she could complain to them. She then discovered the registered owners had moved the business from Purley to Dorset. "Landlords and agents are often uncontactable or living far away where they don't need to deal with the problem," she said. "If they won't maintain the properties and the council won't take action, the situation just deteriorates." When the Advertiser tried to contact the owners, they had no registered e-mail or phone number and had to be reached through their accountants. The owners declined to call back. After a month of complaints, Thames Water fixed the leak and the landlord renovated the front of the house – clearing the mattress and rats nest.Landlord law IN THE last year, Croydon Council has successfully prosecuted five landlords. Two were for not having an HMO licence, two for not providing the proper information required by law and one was for failing to carry out an improvement notice. In one case, two men were rushed to hospital in October last year after the shed they had been living in burnt to the ground in Thornton Heath. The landlord, from Ace Management in London, was taken to court by the council in May and fined £12,000 for not having an HMO licence. The landlord was also ordered to pay £2,375 in court costs. Councillor Dudley Mead, cabinet member for housing, said: "Tenants living in unlicensed properties are at risk of living in sub-standard, unsafe conditions, and the council will not hesitate to take action against landlords who break the law by failing to apply for a licence."