Landlord struck with £300,000 of fines and costs after multiple planning breaches

A landlord’s failure to comply with numerous planning enforcement notices issued by Waltham Forest Borough Council has now resulted in a substantial fine of more than £300,000.

Mr William Lao owned 16 properties across the Borough and added roof and garden extensions to 7 over a number of years. According to the council, the size of these properties almost doubled in many cases and each had been converted to flats in addition.

Mr Lao failed to apply for planning permissions for any of these works, leading Waltham Forest to serve him with a number of planning enforcement notices under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended). Regardless, the Defendant declined to restore the properties to their original state.

The resultant hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 30 January saw Mr Lao’s representation reputedly admitting that he had made a ‘huge mistake’. He was fined £73,500, comprising £10,000 for each of the seven enforcement notices, £3,000 for breaches of the Houses in Multiple Occupation regulations, and £500 relating to an improvement notice and a failure to disclose ownership.

The court also imposed a confiscation order of £217,758 and ordered Lao to pay £10,000 towards Waltham Forest’s costs.

Mr Lao has six months in which to pay. If he fails to do so, he will be subject to a default of 30 months’ imprisonment.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment at Waltham Forest, is reported to have commented:

“Some of the issues date back almost five years, so we’re really pleased to have finally brought this rogue landlord to account and seen him rightly punished for a catalogue of breaches.”

It may be tempting to play the planning system, but the case of Mr Lao confirms for any with doubts that Councils will come down very hard on anyone caught playing fast and loose with the rules. Short-term profit is never worth the long-term disruption and potential financial ruin that comes with enforcement proceedings.

SJ                                                                                                                                                13.02.15

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