Southwark landlord to face two years in prison if £230,000 confiscation order not paid in three months
A private landlord has been prosecuted by Southwark Council for illegally squashing seven flats into a housing development that only had planning permission for six. In addition to this, three of the flats had extra-unauthorised bedrooms that added to the already cramped and sub-standard conditions.
In 2011, planning permission was granted at appeal for the erection of a part two / part three storey building comprising six self-contained flats (one studio, three with one bedroom and two with two bedrooms) on the land in Boyson Road, Walworth SE17.
When the property was inspected in late 2016, the council found the size of six of the flats to be below minimum standards and they were so poorly designed that five had no dedicated storage space.
In addition, the flats were let as temporary accommodation and short-term holiday lets. This was unauthorised and resulted in the loss of much needed permanent accommodation. The constant coming and going of different parties resulted in noise and disturbance to local residents.
On 30 January 2017, a planning enforcement notice was issued by Southwark Council, requiring action to remedy the planning breach. The notice was not complied with and offences continued from 17 September 2017 to 1 August 2019.
On 9 January 2020, summonses were issued to Highbrow Properties Limited and Director Mr Iftikhar Ahmed (54) of Mount Drive, Wembley. Guilty pleas were entered at Croydon Magistrates on 9 February 2021
Following a financial investigation, the case proceeded to Inner London Crown Court for sentencing and confiscation proceedings on 28 April 2022.
The council ordered Ahmed to demolish the unauthorised flats or correct the development so that it met with the original planning permission. He was also told to stop using the properties for temporary accommodation.
The court agreed that Ahmed had illegally gained £230,000 in rent, as established by specialist financial investigators from Southwark Council’s Trading Standards team.
The court ordered Ahmed or the company to pay a proceeds of crime confiscation order of £230,000. Mr Ahmed faces two years in prison if the confiscation order is not paid in three months.
In addition, Highbrow Properties Limited incurred fines and costs of £25,000, while Ahmed must pay fines and costs of £13,000.
Cllr Darren Merrill, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Cleaner Borough at Southwark Council, said:
“Everyone deserves a good quality home and space standards make sure that new homes are both good quality and a good size. This blatant attempt to shoehorn an extra flat and additional bedrooms, compromised the entire block. This court result serves as warning that planning control breaches will not be tolerated and supports the council in cracking down on those who try to benefit from renting illegal and sub-standard properties in Southwark.
“In addition to this work, I am also pushing for more powers to tackle low quality homes. Coupled with adequate funding, this could help us to ensure that quality housing is available to everyone in Southwark.“
Remedial work has since been carried out and according to the council, the development is now in compliance with the planning permission.
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