High Fines for Illegal Flats in North London

A 10-year planning battle over the size of flats in a shared house has ended with a judge dishing out nearly £600,000 in fines and legal fees for a pair of London landlords.

The bitter legal battle started in 2009 when Joel Salem, 65, and Judith Robinson-Dadoun, 57, divided a home in Hampstead, North London, into seven flats when Camden Council had only granted permission for four.

The couple and the council fought for years. At one point, the council issued an enforcement notice demanding the number of flats be reduced, which the landlords ignored.

However, the pair carried on collecting rent from the property.

In 2020, the pair were found guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court of renting out substandard flats and ignoring the enforcement notice. The house was sold in 2021.

Judge David Aaronberg KC said the property was home to many people in unsatisfactory accommodation for many years in a “direct and flagrant breach of the requirements of the enforcement notice”.

He fined the pair £350,000 and ordered them to pay costs of £247,011, for a total bill of £597,011.

Danger home infested with rats

Landlord Nazir Ahmed left his tenants to live in a rat-infested shared house with no electricity.

Cardiff magistrates heard police found a hole in the front door, exposed wiring and rubbish blocking a fire exit when they visited the property. Someone had tried to bypass the electric meter and rats were scurrying across the floor.

The council ordered the tenants to leave immediately as the house was dangerous.

Ahmed, who has 21 housing offence convictions dating from 1999, was fined £37,000 and ordered to pay £2,461 costs in his absence for breaking house in multiple occupation (HMO) laws.

Not-so-smart landlords

Four landlords have faced magistrates in Cardiff for breaching Rent Smart Wales landlord and property licensing rules. Rent Smart demands landlords letting properties in Wales register their properties, and whoever manages the homes must undergo training.

Joanne Day, of Llanrwst, Conway, was fined £1,540 for three offences related to operating as an unregistered and unlicensed landlord. She must pay costs of £490 and a £44 victim surcharge.

Muhammed Ahmed of Sandy, Bedfordshire, was found guilty in his absence and fined £1,100, ordered to pay costs of £459 and a victim surcharge of £66 for failing to register and for appointing an unlicensed agent for a buy-to-let in Newport.

Cardiff landlord Rizwan Ul Zaman did register as a Rent Smart landlord but did not obtain a licence. He was found guilty of two offences and fined £880 with £490.15 costs.

Tom Brock, of Cardiff, also failed to apply for a licence to manage his Cathays property and was found guilty in his absence at court. He was fined £440, with £529 costs and a £44 victim surcharge.

HMO chainsaw attack

Mark Hunter, 45, attacked tenants with a chainsaw at an HMO in Southampton after hearing they bullied his stepdaughter, who lived at the house.

Southampton Crown Court was told he used the chainsaw and a metal bar to attack two cars and then smashed through the front door. Inside, he damaged a bannister and flat doors while threatening the tenants.

Hunter pleaded guilty to burglary and two counts of criminal damage. He was sentenced to two years in prison and suspended for two years. His partner, Michelle Gateley, 55, admitted a public order offence and was given a 12-month community order.

Millionaire landlord jailed

Landlord Jeremy Southgate, 63, was jailed for 11 years for allowing drug gangs to take over 17 of his 72 rented homes to grow cannabis.

At a sentencing hearing, Hull Crown Court heard Southgate recruited three Albanian men to manage the properties, with a bogus letting agency as a front. Part of his plan was to shroud the cannabis farms from police by installing insulation paid for with government grants.

The court was told Southgate earned around £11 million a year, but police could not prove how much of that money was the proceeds of crime due to his ‘eccentric’ accounting and the fact that he had no rent books.

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Planning Control

Planning approval is essentially about controlling the use of land and is required to alter, extend or change the use of existing properties, or to make changes to a listed building or to a property in a conservation area