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London borough secures £1.1m confiscation order against landlord over studio and bedsit conversions

Southwark Council has secured a confiscation order for more than £1.1m against a landlord who turned three flats in London Bridge into around 20 studios and bedsits.

Andre Charles Trepel was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 costs at the Inner London Crown Court on 17 April, 2019 for breaching a planning enforcement notice, with his company – No.1 (London) Ltd – fined a further £1,000.

Trepel, and the company, will also have to pay back £1,118,601 criminal benefit under Proceeds of Crime confiscation orders within the next three months or he will face a seven-year prison sentence.

The council has restrained assets belonging to both the defendant and his company to ensure that the confiscation orders will be satisfied.

Southwark originally won a planning prosecution against Trepel, aged 74 from Trinec in the Czech Republic, for his illegal conversion of the three flats within 2-4 London Bridge Street in 2010. He was fined and ordered to return the property back to its original condition.

Subsequent investigations by Southwark’s planning enforcement team in 2015 and 2016 showed that little had been done to rectify the situation and further charges were brought in 2017.

Trepel was again found guilty, but his sentencing was deferred while the council’s trading standards team conducted a financial investigation into the profits he had gathered from renting the properties.

It was agreed the defendant would have received £1.2.m gross in rent on his London Bridge Street properties since 2011.

Cllr Victoria Mills, Southwark’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Brexit, said: “I hope this serves as a warning to any disreputable landlord operating in Southwark. This council will not stand by and let our residents live in cramped properties that are harmful to their health and happiness, and we will use every legal measure at our disposal to ensure homes are of a decent standard and landlords do not profit from the misery of their tenants.”

The council will receive around £445,000 as a result of the case and is to re-invest these funds in enforcement and crime reduction initiatives.

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