A licensing enforcement case has set a precedent after a local authority won a Proceeds of Crime case against a group of rogue landlords and their agent.
Altogether, the group of four were hit with £244,367 of penalties, including over £120,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
They had stuffed 31 people into a four-bedroom house in Wembley.
During a raid, enforcement officers from Brent Council found some residents sharing a single bed, with night workers swapping sleeping shifts with those who worked during the day.
Mother and daughter Harsha and Chandni Shah, along with Mrs Harsha Shah’s brother Sanjay Shah, were pocketing around £112,000 a year from the property.
They were assisted by Jaydipkumar Valand, who was acting as their agent and collecting rent.
Enforcement officers from Brent Council found appalling conditions in the ‘shanty’ style house.
They also found a woman living in a lean-to shed in the back garden of the property. The shack had no lighting or heating and was made out of wood offcuts, pallets and tarpaulin.
Her Honour Judge Wood at Harrow Crown Court made a Confiscation Order for the sum of £116,000 against the mother and daughter under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Their agent was also subjected to a confiscation order for the sum of £5,000.
The three Shah family members were sentenced to pay £41,000 in fines. All the defendants were ordered to pay £82,367 in costs. The total payable amounted to £244,367.
A confiscation order was not awarded against Sanjay Shah because the court was not persuaded that he had benefited from his criminal activity in running the illegal overcrowded HMO.
However, the Judge held that he had played a key role in facilitating the illegal operation and fined him along with the other defendants.
Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Brent’s cabinet member for housing and welfare reform, said: “We will use every legal power we have to come down hard on landlords and agents who exploit tenants.”
Previous case law had indicated that Confiscation Orders could not be obtained in cases such as this. But Brent proved that its case could be distinguished from previous cases.
Councils from all over the country will be able to use this historic legal win as a precedent, said Brent.