A landlord who pleaded guilty to two offences of failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice has been handed a confiscation order of nearly £260,000.
Southwark Council had prosecuted Shafait Ali, 51 of Deptford, after he developed five flats that were rented out above commercial premises on the Old Kent Road.
The flats had been constructed on the first and second floors of the building without planning permission in an unauthorised change of use from previous office/light industrial use.
Council officers found that the size of the flats was well below minimum residential standards. “Some of the flats were rented to families even though they fell well short of the minimum dwelling size standards for occupancy by one or two persons,” the council said.
Prohibition notices were also served by the council’s Environmental Health Officers who found numerous fire, electrical and health concerns.
Mr Ali pleaded guilty in June 2018 to the offences under the Town and County Planning Act 1990.
The notice required Mr Ali to cease the use of a property at 719-725 Old Kent Road, London SE15 1JL as three self-contained flats and two non-self-contained flats. The notice also required the permanent removal of all fittings installed to facilitate the unauthorised conversion.
Following the guilty plea, confiscation proceedings were led by specialist financial investigators from Southwark Council’s Trading Standards team. This led to an agreed criminal benefit figure amounting to the rental income of £259,475.
At a hearing at the Inner London Crown Court earlier this month (10 November 2020) Mr Ali was ordered to pay that amount under a confiscation order.
He was also sentenced to a fine and ordered to pay costs, totalling £23,400.59.
Mr Ali has three months to pay the confiscation order or face two and half years in prison.
Cllr Johnson Situ, Southwark’s Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Planning & Transport, said: “We believe that everyone deserves a place that they’re proud to call home so it’s deeply shocking that families were cramped into properties not even big enough for one or two people.
“This is a great result and another success for our Planning and Trading Standards teams, whose joint efforts have amounted to nearly £1.5m in confiscation orders issued to landlords renting out illegally converted properties in Southwark since 2019. The council remains committed to taking tough action against criminal landlords who would profit from the misery of their tenants by renting illegal and sub-standard properties.”
The council has restrained assets belonging to Mr Ali to ensure the order is settled.