Landlord ordered to pay nearly three quarters of a million pounds for renting out illegally converted properties in Willesden

Monday, March 15th, 2021 - Brent Council

A Crown Court judge has ordered a private landlord to pay back £739,263.58 in illicit earnings made from overcrowded properties in Willesden. It is believed to be the largest such order for a planning breach made anywhere in the country so far this year.

The court order was made against Mohammed Mehdi Ali of High Road Willesden, following a prosecution brought by Brent Council.

HHJ Wood, sitting at Harrow Crown Court, made the order against Mr Ali on Friday 12 February. He was told by the court that he would face a prison term of 5 years and 9 months if he did not pay the order in full within three months.

Mr Ali was found guilty of failing to comply with planning enforcement notices in April 2018 at Willesden Magistrates Court, after investigations by Brent’s planning enforcement team. The case was then referred to Harrow Crown Court for confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Detailed investigations carried out by Brent’s financial investigators and planning enforcement officers revealed the extent of illegal dwellings created and the illicit earnings made by renting out the properties, which were owned by Mr Ali and his father. The properties were used as houses in multiple occupation and as undersized flats.

Mr Ali was also ordered to pay Brent Council £30,000 to cover its legal costs in the long-running case.

Cllr Shama Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Property & Planning, said:

This is another huge win for Brent. The council will take robust action to prevent the creation of poor quality housing. This penalty sends a clear message that rogue landlords will not be allowed to get away with ignoring planning laws. The accommodation provided was some of the worst residential accommodation that officers have ever come across. Brent will not tolerate this type of behaviour, landlords providing such horrible conditions. Brent residents deserve better.

Tenant who sublet overcrowded and unlicensed HMO has been fined

Meanwhile, a head tenant who posed as a landlord has been slapped with £9,047.50 in fines and costs, plus a criminal record, for breaching housing laws.

Brent originally issued Mrs Sonia Nascimento with a £5,000 Civil Penalty Notice but after she refused to pay it, it is understood the council withdrew the civil penalty and instead took the matter to court. The £9,047.50 penalty is almost double the fine issued by Brent Council and now Mrs Nascimento also has a criminal record.

Mrs Nascimento rented out a converted, four-bedroom flat from a landlord in Willesden back in 2017, and then illegally sublet the property to other tenants for a profit.

One of the tenants living at the flat in St Paul’s Avenue reported Mrs Nascimento to Brent’s private housing services in July last year, saying that eight people were sharing the property but that none of them had a tenancy agreement.

An inspection carried out by the council’s enforcement team under strict COVID-19 safety guidelines in July last year found the property was being operated without the necessary House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence, and that Mrs Nascimento, who did not live in the flat, was in breach of housing management regulations.

On 4 March, Willesden Magistrates Court heard how a lack of smoke alarms and a fire safety system put all tenants in danger at the flat, including the life of a four-month-old baby.

Mrs Nascimento was found guilty of failing to take measures to protect the occupiers of the HMO from injury. Because the property was unlicensed, the tenants did not have a tenancy agreement or a government-approved deposit scheme to secure their deposit money.

The owner, who paid occasional visits to the flat, was also issued with a £2,500 Civil Penalty Notice for failure to license the property.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, said:

Most landlords recognise the important responsibilities that come with it. Landlords who fail to licence their properties or who are not following housing management regulations are breaking the law. Safety of tenants is our priority and we encourage anyone who suspect that their landlord may be acting outside the law to report their concerns to us.

A free guide explaining the property licensing and HMO planning restrictions in the London Borough of Brent is available here.

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