Today we announced the formation of a City investigation squad to bolster efforts to shut down illegal accommodation providers.
The squad includes former members of Scotland Yard and the Australian military police. It will target providers who exploit visitors - mainly students and young people on working holidays - looking for cheap, long-term accommodation.
These unauthorised and unsafe places put our visitors at risk. We are particularly concerned with fire safety, unauthorised building works and anti-social behaviour.
The team was established in March and has so far seen:
- Rooms turned into makeshift bathrooms and people sleeping in laundries;
- A three-bedroom house with 58 beds and 19 illegally constructed bedrooms;
- People sleeping in bathrooms and in one case, a pantry;
- One-bedroom apartments with up to 10 people living in each apartment;
- Sixteen people living in a two-bedroom apartment;
- Apartment kitchens with serious cockroach infestations;
- Disconnected smoke detectors; and
- People sleeping in an apartment building's fire stairs with fire doors damaged or left open.
The team has so far executed more than 20 search warrants at properties across the city, obtaining evidence and gathering witness statements with the assistance of the NSW Police Force.
It is led by City Investigative Specialist Roy Cottam, a former Senior Detective who has worked with Scotland Yard and the Police Integrity Commission in NSW. He also lectures on criminology, organised crime and leadership with a number of universities.
We are the first council in NSW to establish a specialist investigations team using a multi-agency approach to investigate reports of illegal use of property. We also have an educational campaign targeting universities and tertiary institutions to advise students about safe rental choices.
Young travelers and students from all over the world who are attracted to Sydney often book accommodation online, only to arrive and discover unacceptable squalor. This new team will help us discover and prosecute those who are breaking the law and exploiting our visitors.