FOURTEEN people were found to be living in a house with facilities for five people in Bridgwater in an early morning raid on a suspected unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Sedgemoor District Council housing standards officers, accompanied by officers from Avon and Somerset Police and the Gang Masters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), entered the property with a warrant to find that it was significantly overcrowded.

Within the house there are sufficient facilities for five people; staff found 14 people living there.

Officers also found spare mattresses in a toy play house in the garden as well as within the house which suggested that there were even more than 14.

A spokesperson for the GLAA said: “The GLAA exists to protect vulnerable workers in the UK and this is a good example of multi-agency partnership working to achieve that aim."

The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act requires people to have a licence to provide workers into agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, food processing and associated packaging.

It provides safeguards for those at risk of exploitation and ensures that workers get what they are lawfully entitled to.

The GLAA spokesman added: "If we find evidence that our licensing scheme is not being followed, either deliberately or more simply through ignorance of the legislation, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action.

"Overcrowded accommodation can be just one of numerous indicators that individuals may be subjected to exploitative, unlawful and unethical practices."

Sedgemoor District Council said it will be taking emergency action to limit the numbers in the property by serving a Prohibition Order.

Prosecutions for operating an HMO without a licence can see a civil penalty of up to £30,000 or unlimited in the courts.

If convicted, any landlord would also be placed on the national database for Rogue Landlords which would prevent the landlord from managing any HMO’s in the future.

Proceeds of income from rent could also be confiscated.