A property on Quarry Street in Ultimo has been brought to the attention of the City of Sydney Council as a serious safety hazard to its lodgers and surrounding residents.
Council was alerted to the risk when a neighbouring resident informed councillors that the building appeared to be overcrowded. Upon inspection, Fire and Rescue New South Wales discovered that the property was being used as an illegal boarding house for backpackers and international students.
The building had been authorised as a single dwelling only, however council discovered the building had been divided into twenty-two separate rooms.
A spokesperson from the office of City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas was able to confirm that the property had been safely evacuated. A former resident of the boarding house, who preferred not to be named, also confirmed that the building had been evacuated and that its residents had moved elsewhere.
The spokesperson believes that this unauthorised overcrowding of inner city dwellings poses a broader problem to the community.
“When people buy property for the purpose of taking advantage of young backpackers and international students, it is exploitation and it is unsafe.”
“This is not a problem with all landlords, but a small number of landlords are taking advantage of the under supply of accommodation in the inner city and the fact that the area is a draw card for students and young people,” the spokesperson said.
Council found the property was housing fifty-eight people, who for the most part had responded to subletting advertisements on Gumtree, Facebook and Craigslist.
The issue is also particularly problematic as it is very hard for council and other regulatory bodies to identify and control. Fire and Rescue NSW Chief Superintendent Greg Buckley said increased community vigilance is the best way to prevent these situations occurring.
“We rely on community complaints for these situations to be brought to our attention so increased community awareness of the issue is important,” he said.
The spokesperson from the office of Cr Vithoulkas agreed with this concern.
“The problem for Council is that we do not have power of entry into these buildings, so we are beholden to local residents to alert us to these problems in order for the right mechanisms to be put in place.”
The spokesperson commended Fire Rescue NSW and the City of Sydney Council for their response to the situation.