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Police are calling for help from letting agents and landlords in order to keep an eye out for anyone who may be being held as a ‘modern slave’ in the United Kingdom.

There have recently been several high-profile cases of people from overseas being deprived of their passports and virtually held prisoner in a house where they are starved, beaten, abused or made to perform all the household chores and look after children without pay. Others are put to work in the sex trade or forced to steal or beg.

It is big business and it is thought that at least 13,000 men, women and children have entered into Britain only to be held against their will and made to work. The problem exists in virtually every major town and city, with the victims coming from a wide range of countries but particularly Romania, Albania, Nigeria and Vietnam.

The police are doing what they can but it is such big business that they are calling for help from the wider private sector.

The initiative is being used by Thames Valley Police who are asking landlords and letting agents to be sure as to whom they are letting out their properties. But it is a useful scheme for all agencies to adopt. The Purple Teardrop Campaign is also calling on everyone in towns and cities throughout the UK to keep an eye out for signs of modern-day slavery.

Key questions to ask when letting out properties include:

– Who is renting your property and who is living there?
– Is the person living there the same person who signed the tenancy agreement?
– Do the tenants change regularly?
– Do the tenants appear frightened, unable to make eye contact or look as though they have been physically abused?
– Do the tenants have their own passports or ID and have these been checked to make sure that they are genuine?
– Does it look as if the property has been sublet?

There may also be complaints from neighbours about the volume of people going in and out of the property, particularly at night. Alternatively, the occupants may never be seen outside and the curtains are never opened.

The victims are unlikely to speak English and so may not be able to communicate that they are being abused or that they are being held as slaves.

These additional checks could be added to an inventory list or to the list of things to look for when checking in tenants or performing interim inspections, for example.

Although it may seem to be yet another imposition on property managers or letting agents, it could help victims who have no voice of their own. As Thames Valley Police have pointed out, these modern-day slaves have to live somewhere and thus there is a likelihood that many will be in rented accommodation.

Therefore, carrying out checks on the occupants in rented accommodation and how they live could go some way to curbing the problem.

If tenants seem suspicious or raise concerns, it is wise to get in touch with your local police force. You could also ask them for any additional guidelines as to what to look out for in the first place.