Camden Council secures record fine for illegal flat conversion

Friday, April 5th, 2024 - Camden Council

Camden Council has successfully prosecuted two landlords who failed to comply with a planning enforcement notice issued against substandard flats in 2010. 

Following an investigation by the Council’s Planning Department between 2009 and 2010, a planning enforcement notice was served on 6 October 2010 and required compliance by 17 May 2011. 

The enforcement notice was issued against seven unauthorised and substandard flats in Fortune Green Road, the council only having granted permission for four flats. The notice stated the residential units by reason of their size in terms of bedroom numbers and floorspace did not provide a suitable mix of residential accommodation to meet housing needs within the Borough or an acceptable standard of living accommodation, contrary to the requirements of policies SD6 (Amenity for occupiers and neighbours), H1 (New Housing) and H8 (Mix of units) of the London Borough of Camden Unitary Development Plan (2006) and residential development standards (Space and room sizes) of the Camden Planning Guidance (2006).

The defendants failed to comply with the notice and ignored repeated written warnings about the potential consequences if they failed to take action.

Summonses were served on 5 October 2018 alleging the defendants had acted unlawfully between 19 May 2011 and 7 June 2018. They continued to receive rents until the property was sold on 29 April 2021.

On 28 February 2024, the Court ordered a fine of £350,000 and full costs of £247,011.64 in Camden’s favour against landlords Joel Salem, aged 65 of Highview Gardens, Finchley and Judith Robinson-Dadoun, aged 57 of Brampton Grove, Hendon. Both had previously found guilty on 16 June 2020 by a Judge at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court, under section 179(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for their failure to comply with the enforcement notice.

Judge David Aaronberg KC in his sentencing remarks stated: “…Both defendants bear high culpability in respect of their failure to have complied with the enforcement notice. Each was, at various times, involved in the management and running of 52 Fortune Green Road, in breach of the notice. Each was directly involved in the letting of the property after the notice came into force, as shown on various tenancy and other signed management and other agreements …and each would clearly have understood the requirements of the enforcement notice and the implications of failing to comply with its requirements over a protracted period.

He added: “…I am satisfied that the property housed large numbers of people in unsatisfactory accommodation for many years after compliance was supposed to have taken place; this was in direct and flagrant breach of the requirements of the enforcement notice which sought to promote the Council’s Development Plan policies, specifically designed to protect the living conditions of vulnerable people and their neighbours. The tenants of this kind of accommodation often do not feel able to complain to their local authority about their living conditions, and more often still, they do not have the means to do so. That is what makes such tenants vulnerable.

…I am satisfied so as to be sure that Mr Salem is a wealthy individual who has contrived, over many years, to produce an elaborate and impenetrable network of shareholdings, directorships and property assets initially in order to reduce tax liabilities and also, in the present context, to conceal his true wealth from the court.

As with Mr Salem, I am satisfied that she [Judith Dadoun] has concealed her true financial worth from the court and that she will be able to realise from undisclosed assets sufficient monies to pay a substantial fine and to meet a substantial costs order.

Commenting on the case, Councillor Danny Beales, Camden’s Cabinet Member for New Homes, Jobs and Community Investment said:

I am delighted by this verdict as it shows that we will not accept substandard accommodation and that we will always strongly pursue the breach of planning enforcement notices for as long as it takes.

These developers, sought to make as much money as possible from residents living in poor quality accommodation. We will not accept this sort of behaviour and are satisfied that a sufficient punishment has been given by the Courts, who also recognised that it would be ‘wholly wrong for the Council’s taxpayers to meet the Council’s costs in these proceedings.This will send a strong message to other landlords and building owners. You need to comply with planning rules, and we will stand with our residents who deserve safe, good quality homes.

Our free guide containing more information about property licensing and HMO planning restrictions in the London Borough of Camden is available here.

For all the latest news and events, you can sign up for the free London Property Licensing newsletter here.