Planning enforcement notices served on a property in Peckham were not brought to the attention of tenants by the landlord.
The landlord misled tenants by renting out the illegally converted house, which had been converted into two cramped and squalid flats. He was prosecuted by Southwark Council in April 2015, for breaching a planning notice and trading standard offences, after the illegal conversion into two small flats, eventually leading to his imprisonment for 155 days.
After a trial it was found that the landlord and his company had not been professionally diligent and had mislead the tenants by not telling them the property was subject to planning enforcement notices. The landlord pleaded guilty to the offence of ignoring the council’s planning notice to return the two flats back into one unit. He was fined £2,500, with additional costs of £16,885.70.
The court determined that the landlord’s criminal gains amounted to the rent he received after signing one tenancy agreement and renewing the other while knowing that the flat was subject to a planning enforcement notice.
In January 2016, Southwark Council applied for a Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, for the recovery of rents, totalling £24,000. The landlord was given until April 2016 to pay the debt and was warned that a prison sentence should be expected if he failed to make full payment.
The landlord was challenged at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in November 2017, when £14,644 of the £24,000 debt remained unpaid. The District Judge found the landlord guilt of culpable neglect and activated the default jail sentence, saying that the landlord had “willfully refused to pay”.
Cabinet Member for Communities and Safety, Councillor Barrie Hargrove, urged tenants to report rogue landlords so that they could be brought to justice. He said: “It is deplorable that some landlords are forcing people to live in sub-standard, cramped conditions, purely so they can line their pockets.”
Cracking down on rogue landlords
Another area fraught with danger for tenants are the fraudulently generated profits gained by dishonestly increasing the costs of maintenance and safety work. In September 2017, a Confiscation Order of £1 million against a letting agent was ordered under the Proceeds of Crime Act when he was convicted of money laundering and VAT and insurance fraud. The investigation began when a lady complained of being overcharged for routine maintenance in her rented home. The £500 invoice she was given had been faked by the landlord, who had been charged just £160 for the safety check work.