London Borough of Ealing secures substantial confiscation order on illegal property conversion Ref. Milinkovic v LB Ealing (2015)

The London Borough of Ealing has secured a £66,000 confiscation order against an individual who converted a property into three reputedly sub-standard flats without planning permission in 2010. Ealing prosecuted Dragan Milinkovic, who owned the house in Cuckoo Dene, Hanwell, for failing to comply with an enforcement notice.

Ealing issued an enforcement notice against Milinkovic in 2011, requiring him to stop using the house as three flats. A letter of caution was issued by the council in January 2014.

Judge Donne QC presided at Harrow Crown Court on 27th March 2015 and fined Mr Milinkovic £2,700, as well as ordering him to pay Ealing’s costs of £4,762 plus a victim surcharge. The confiscation charge of £66,000 – which relates to the money illegally obtained by him continuing to rent the property after the expiry of the enforcement notice – must be paid within six months, or he will face 21 months’ imprisonment.

Judge Donne noted how Milinkovic had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. However, the judge added:

“Your offence is aggravated by the period of time in which you did not comply and the fact you ignored the caution letter.” 

Pat Hayes, Ealing’s Executive Director, Regeneration and Housing, said:

“The council provides lots of information on the regulations which must be followed when converting a building to ensure it is safe, habitable and does not impact on others. This landlord has not only not followed the regulations but he has also ignored a notice telling him to put things right.

“Mr Milinkovic was given every opportunity to make his property legal but….. chose to ignore the council, leaving us no option but to take legal action.”

Hayes added:

“I am pleased that a really significant fine of £66,000 has been imposed and hopefully this will deter others who think this type of offence only attracts a small penalty. I would also like to thank the council staff who pursued this case so diligently.”  

As Mr Hayes warns, Landlords who think they might get away with converting a property without permission from the Local Planning Authority, or without the statutory authority of the Permitted development regulations, should think again – the fines can be heavy and councils are becoming increasingly diligent in their pursuit of this particular form of justice.

SRJ                                                                                                02.04.15

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