Brent has become the first council in the country to use the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) against slum landlords for breaches of licensing conditions.
The local authority has won a court case against members of the Shah family after a raid revealed they had crammed 31 tenants into ‘filthy and dangerous living conditions.’
Council officers discovered one woman living in a shack with no lighting or heating,which was leaning against the four-bedroom property in Napier Road during a raid in July 2016.
Harrow Crown Court ruled at the end of last month that the council is able to use POCA to recover criminal assets the Shah family obtained from what the council described as their ‘racketeering’.
Harsha Shah, daughter Chandni Shah and brother-in-law Sanjay Shah now face paying a confiscation order for financial benefit gained or saved as a result of contraventions of the Management of HMO Regulations 2006 and breaches of licensing conditions.
POCA provides for the confiscation or civil recovery of the proceeds from crime. The Shah family’s fine could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to the council.
Jaydipkumar Valand, who collected around £112,000 rent from the tenants for the Shah family in 2015 to 2016, may also be ordered to repay any financial benefit gained under this POCA ruling.
‘This is a landmark legal decision for our zero tolerance policy against rogue landlords,’ said Cllr Harbi Farah, cabinet member for Housing and Welfare Reform.
‘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.’