A three-bedroom home in east London was housing 25 adults and a child in what authorities are claiming is one of the worst examples of illegal overcrowding they have seen.

Housing enforcement officers from Newham Council discovered the 26 people in a home that is officially licensed for a family unit of up to seven.

At least seven tenants were living in a windowless cellar that was accessed via steep concrete steps.

The families were discovered following a series of complaints from neighbours about excess rubbish in the back garden and loud noise.

The council said it intended to prosecute the landlord who had been served an enforcement order three years ago for a breach of planning permission.

The tenants told authorities they were paying different rates of rent – collectively amounting to at least £2,340 a month. Those living in the cellar were paying £20 a week each.

Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales told the Chartered Institute of Housing conference last week: “The choice for many of my residents is stark – succumb to rogue landlords who have no qualms about packing five people to a room and renting out homes without roofs or leave London altogether, abandoning it to the wealthy and asset-hoarders, leaving our public services without the nurses and teachers we need.”

Newham has the highest level of overcrowding in the UK, according to housing charity Shelter, with around 25% of the borough’s 100,000 homes too small for the number of people living there.