A ROGUE landlord who crammed complete strangers into squalid rooms is still making thousands of pounds by renting his property to council tenants.
Pavlos Chatzinopoulos said he is receiving benefit payments of up to £560 a month for housing two people.
The landlord was condemned in court last week for his atrocious property, after Swindon Council inspectors found a room measuring just 5.7msq with no smoke alarms or fire precautions.
A female tenant raised the alarm after she was made to share a room with a man she did not know.
Chatzinopoulos, 45, was convicted on November 17 of one count of overcrowding and another of failing to carry out remedial work to the house. He was fined £2,515.
Chatzinopoulos said: “I have two council tenants. I have finished the improvements.
“When we started in 2009 there were no fire doors inside but now we have completed it all.
“Fire doors, smoke alarms, we finished in the last eight months.”
Despite pocketing thousands of pounds in housing benefit payments, Chatzinopoulos blamed the council for not giving him money to carry out work on the property in Tudor Walk, Walcot.
He said: “In the beginning I had no money in my pocket.
“I had just £9,100 because the payment was going directly to tenants.
“ I needed the money to catch up in the time when the council told me complete this work.
“After this I was asking for a grant, and I was told ‘there is no grant for you.’ “Which is wrong because there are many, many plans which have received grants for installations.
“We are helping each other, we are giving people somewhere to sleep.”
But the landlord is still receiving housing benefit payments despite conditions being condemned as appalling by District Judge Simon Cooper at Swindon Magistrates’ Court.
“It’s £70 a week per claim for each person, £560 a month for both tenants,” said Chatzinopoulos “But we don’t always get that. It depends because a tenant might have an overdraft for payment or something like that.”
The landlord said he feels he is being unfairly punished.
“I believe I am being tested in spirit and how great I am,” he said.
Housing charity Shelter has called on local authorities to have zero tolerance of rogue landlords.
Chief executive Campbell Robb said: “Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact rogue landlords have on peoples’ lives as they remain trapped in homes that cause misery and, in some cases, put lives at risk."
Swindon Council is reviewing the housing benefits payments to Chatzinopoulos in light of the court hearing.
A spokesman said: “Tenants are free to choose their own accommodation and, although Mr Chatzinopoulos has been found to be in breach of the Housing Act 2004 and the non-compliance of legal notices, he has since complied with these notices.
“His property is now occupied under the imposed maximum occupancy limit And it complies with the Housing Act 2004 and the council’s adopted standards.
“We will continue to work with Mr Chatzinpoulos to ensure his property does not become overcrowded again and that he continues to comply with all the relevant legislation.”