Criminal landlords who crammed up to 40 migrants inside their semi-detached townhouse in north-west London face losing hundreds of thousands of pounds they made in rental income after Brent Council this week became the first council in the country to use the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) against them.
Harsha Shah, her daughter Chandni, and brother-in-law Sanjay Shah, rented their four bedroom property in Wembley through estate agent Jaydipkumar Valand, receiving between £40 and £75 per week in cash over a five-year period by the tenants who resided in filthy and dangerous living conditions.
Harrow Crown Court heard how tenants were made to sleep in bunk beds, which blocked all fire exits, leaving His Honour Recorder Rubin QC with little alternative but to order the POCA to recover criminal assets that the Shah family obtained.
Edmund Robb, counsel from Prospect Law who represented Brent in the hearing, commented: “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.”
The Shah family now face paying a confiscation order for financial benefit gained or saved as result of contraventions of the Management of HMO Regulations 2006 and breaches of licensing conditions that could amount to more than £360,000.
This covers repairs they neglected to fix and financial gain made from their racketeering.
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.”