A council has claimed a legal first after it used the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) against landlords for breaches of licensing conditions, in a landmark ruling.
A Crown Court judge ruled yesterday that POCA could be used to recover criminal assets that a family obtained from cramming 31 tenants into a single four-bedroom property.
The man who collected around £112,000 in rent from the tenants may also be ordered to repay any financial benefit he gained under the same POCA ruling.
The case centres around the Shah family, who contravened the Management of HMO Regulations 2006 and breached licensing conditions as a result of squeezing so many tenants into a property on Napier Road in Wembley, London.
Brent Council has previously described the property (pictured) as a “Slumdog Millionaire-esque shanty home”.
Council officers discovered one woman living in lean-to shack next to the four-bedroom property during a raid in July 2016.
The shack had no lighting or heating and was made out of wood offcuts, pallets and tarpaulin.
Harsha Shah, daughter Chandni Shah and brother-in-law Sanjay Shah now face paying a confiscation order for financial benefit as a result of those breaches.
The order also covers repairs they neglected to fix and financial gain made from their racketeering.
It comes after Sanjay Shah lost his appeal against the charge of aiding and abetting the breaches of a term of the selective licence attached to the property on January 5 this year.
He also lost his appeal against his conviction for contraventions of the Management of HMO Regulations 2006.
Jaydipkumar Valand, who has previously been described in some press reports as an agent, and who collected rent from tenants for the Shah family in 2015 may also be ordered to repay any financial benefits he made.
Cllr Harbi Farah, cabinet member for housing and welfare reform, said: “This is a landmark legal decision for our zero tolerance policy against rogue landlords.
“We will use all the powers we have to put an end to tenants living in misery, and this includes the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“We want to work with landlords and agents to improve the standard of living in the private rented sector, and we urge those responsible to licence their properties and comply with licensing conditions.”
Edmund Robb, counsel from Prospect Law who represented Brent in the hearing, said: “This judgment represents a landmark ruling from the Crown Court which allows local authorities to initiate confiscation proceedings under POCA 2002 for criminal offences linked to safety and amenity regulations.
“Rogue landlords cannot now hide behind previous case law to avoid being required by the courts to pay back rents and other benefits obtained whilst their tenants lived in squalid and dangerous conditions.”