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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Rogue landlord ordered to pay £1.1m after converting flats into ‘cramped bedsits’

A buy-to-let landlord who converted a flat in London Bridge into ‘cramped bedsits’ without planning consent has been ordered to pay more than £1.1m.

Landlord Andre Charles Trepel is said to have made £1.2m in gross profit after dividing three flats into around 20 cramped bedsits and studios.

The council was successful in its £1.1m proceeds of crime order against the rogue landlord following a major clampdown.

Trepel was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 costs at Inner London Crown Court  for breaching a planning enforcement notice, while his company No1 (London) Ltd was fined £1,000.

Trepel and his company have also been ordered to pay back £1,118,601 of his profits within three months, or face a seven-year prison sentence.

Under Proceeds of Crime Act rules, most of the money will go to the government.

But the council will get around £445,000 of the criminal benefit to re-invest in enforcement and crime reduction initiatives.

The council originally won a planning prosecution against Trepel, of Trinec in the Czech Republic, for his illegal conversion of the flats at 4-6 London Bridge Street in 2010.

The 74-year-old was fined and ordered to return the flats to their original condition.

Despite that, visits from council inspectors in 2015 and 2016 revealed little had been done to comply with the order – and further charges were brought in 2017.

The landlord was once again found guilty, but sentencing was deferred until an investigation could reveal how much profit he had made from renting out the illegally converted flats.

Cllr Victoria Mills, cabinet member for finance, performance and Brexit, said: “This council will not stand by and let our residents live in cramped properties that are harmful to their health and happiness, and we will use every legal measure at our disposal to ensure homes are of a decent standard and landlords do not profit from the misery of their tenants.”

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    FROM THE CZECH REPUBLIC !

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    Hi Andrew.
    At least it looks like the court has taking the unusual course of 'taking him to the cleaners' on this occasion.

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    Yes John, that's good, it's these people that are getting the rest of us a bad name we are all being tared by the same brush, I'm a nice guy, as i'm sure you are, i get on well with my tenants and attend to issues swiftly, often the same day.

     
  • Paul Barrett

    Where are all the criminal white British LL!?...............do they not exist?
    Anyone would think that criminal LL exist only amongst ethnic minorities and immigrants.........surely NOT!?.

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    What ever the rights & wrongs are, this is disgraceful behaviour by Council & Courts. This is an affront to British Justice, have you not ever heard of the punishment to fit the crime, this is way over the top and CONFlICT of INTEREST in the extreme. Council shouldn’t be beneficiary of their outrageous Actions & using the Court System anytime they want a few bob, causing public to loose confidence in the Justice System, no wonder we have a young generation growing up that couldn’t care less.

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    Michael Foley is spot on the money. APP/A5840/W/18/3199179 Southwark Council's statement "The Council has caused confusion though for which it apologises because at the same time it has complained that bedrooms are undersized" Notwithstanding the large number of bedrooms in the flat, the bedroom sizes, the bedroom sizes as a whole equate to double bedroom size"
    The Planning Inspector allowed the appeal. She noted in her decision that the rooms all complied with Southwark BC's HMO standards in relation to room sizes. The communal kitchen also complied. She could find no conflict with policy 3.5 of the London Plan, Strategic Policies 7 and 13 of the Southwark Core Strategy 2011 and Policies 3.2, 3.11 and 4.2 of the Southwark Plan 2007, which Southwark BC had relied upon when refusing the application. She also found that it complied with the National Planning Policy Framework and that it would not conflict with guidance within the Residential Design SPD and the HMO Standards.

    I have had tenants living at this property for as long as 12 years - no complaints or section 21. All wrote to Southwark Planning with the applications which were refused hence the appeal. Were their views taken into consideration? I had 5 flats not 3 see Southwark Optimised Planning Archive p74 before, weary of not knowing how many residents as opposed to tenants I had in each I took the decision to add an en suite shower room and kitchenette. This made them self-contained.

    It is strange that the draft London Plan 2017 at 4.18.6 recommends
    "The private units should be appropriately sized to be comfortable and functional for
    a tenant’s needs and may include facilities such as en-suite bathrooms and
    kitchenettes limited cooking facilities. There are currently no minimum space
    standards for these units"
    I was born in IOW after my French commando father was killed on V2 mission. My widow mother brought me up in rented Key flats for most of life. I believe I put the welfare and dignity of my tenants above my own. Southwark saw very deep pockets, refused numerous planning applications because of the lure of POCA
    andre@trepel.co.uk

  • Paul Barrett

    Hmmm!!!!
    Certainly puts a different slant on things.
    Councils are certainly not paragons of virtue and there are always 2 sides to such cases.
    It would seem that compliance has not diverted an over zealous Council from trying to squeeze what would seem to be a compliant LL and one definitely not in the mould of what a rogue LL most would consider to be.
    Why won't the RLA etc appeal this case?
    It would seem the Council is not correct with its prosecution.
    More needs to be said about this case.
    Otherwise it does look a bit like a witch hunt

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    Thanks Paul
    I can take the fine just for not obeying the Enforcement notice twice and keeping long standing tenants in their homes for up to 12 years (average 4). My mistake was to put in en suite shower rooms and 400mm kitchenette. Any tenant could buy a two electric hob and stick in their bedsit/room from argos. Would they also buy a fire blanket and extinguisher? The room sizes were those approved in planning applications in 1993 with the additions above.

    Paul Barrett

    Yep you have got to stop considering your tenants.
    In future it must be what the Council wants even if that means fewer amenity values than you could otherwise provide.
    Jumping through the hoops of officialdom is something that must be a LL priority.
    Anything else is of a secondary importance unfortunately.
    Yours is perhaps a timely reminder for a LL to check with the Council BEFORE any intended works are carried irrespective of what a LL might consider is OK.
    Obtaining sign off by the Council SHOULD mean that the LL wouldn't be liable for any form of compliance issues.
    It would take decades to receive payback for fines.
    It makes no economic sense to game the system even inadvertently as the likelihood is the Council will find out.
    That is why I would NEVER do anything without the Council agreeing to my intentions.
    Apart from anything else a LL wants to know that a property value would not be compromised by unregulated activity.
    All it takes is for a surveyor to state no record of Council sign off and a sale falls through.
    ALWAYS consider what a prospective purchaser's surveyor might say.
    This is the person that a vendor has to satisfy if wishing to proceed with a successful sale.
    That being said portable cooking equipment in a non-designated area is a fire hazard and no LL wants to risk burning their investment property down cos cooking went wrong!!

     
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    Sound advice. Paul
    Totally agree if a Council wants to follow their own HMO standards. From 2015, planning applications have been refused. One would expect a Planning case officer assigned to an application to decide it on its merits not refer it to a Senior Enforcement Officer who can foresee a hefty POCA payout, See Michael's point above on conflict. Strangely the same Enforcement Officer Salah Kettani in my original case was found by the judge in Knightland to be " confused and confusing". His enforcement notice gave me 21 units to be returned back to three flats - you do the maths. I had 5 flats. The judge said of Kettani that he interfered with the planning process :- an abuse of process to get POCA.
    Your comments above are exactly how a judge would view my case. It would have gone nowhere referring to their planning refusals, a planning officer asking me for a bribe in 2000 which was reported to 2 councilors and the knowledge that the Shard in my road was given planning by a dodgy 4 to 3. With all my properties in Southwark, I have had to go to appeal. In the end, I just gave all the rent I had received and one is not allowed to deduct any expenditure from the gross amount which included council tax to Southwark - double bubble. I want closure and at 74, the clock is against me.
    "Cramped bedsits" poetic licence or libel. See what Carter Ruck think.

  • Paul Barrett

    Yep the philosophy of a Council should be to speak softly but have a big stick available.
    Rather than going for the POCA the Council should work with the LL to achieve compliance.
    This is what the legislation is for.
    If the LL is resistant to the Council and it's requirements then fair enough the Council may wield the big stick.
    Just because there is an ultimate sanction available to the Council doesn't mean it has to be used.
    It is there to 'persuade' LL into compliance.
    Working with LL to ensure compliance with Council requirements surely is a far more effective methodology.
    I fear that rather than such a pragmatic strategy Councils have been tasked with achieving as much money as they can from groups they consider this most achievable from.
    Nobody apart from the affected LL cares whether the LL is rightly or wrongly penalised.
    Councils care not a jot that they might bankrupt a LL.
    It is all about the money they can achieve.
    Technically they may be perfectly correct in enforcing regulations to the enth degree to achieve massive fines etc.
    But this should not be their raison d' etre for enforcement action.
    Assisting LL to be compliant and giving them logistical time to achieve this is what should be occurring.
    Unfortunately Councils see LL as cash cows who they can milk with nobody really protesting the fact.
    Of course the lost opportunities for tenants won't be realised by tenants.
    They will just note that there are fewer rental properties available for them.
    Govt doesn't seem to be concerned with this issue.
    They care more about converting tenants into homebuyers little realising that if a tenant wanted to do this they would have done so already.
    There was and is more than enough stock available to buy if wanted.
    Unfortunately for Govt few tenants want or can afford to buy...........................which is why most of them are tenants!!
    Reducing the layout of your properties to fewer properties just means fewer options for tenants and inevitably what stock there is renting at higher price points because of scarcity.
    In short Govt ideology is making life very hard for tenants who mostly are not in a position to buy.
    It seems bonkers that Govt is effectively reducing rental supply by it's ridiculous actions when demand for rental stock has never been higher.
    I just don't get what Councils and Govt are playing at.
    But I do know that what they are doing is having a very negative effect on LL to the point that these LL have had enough and are getting out of the game or are changing from the AST rental business model.
    It is the AST business model that is under attack but it is the one that tends to house a lot of people.
    With LL moving away from this business model where are all the tenants gonna live!?
    I confess I haven't a clue and don't care cos I am one of those LL getting out of AST lettings.
    No idea where my 14 current tenants will live as I can guarantee no LL will want to buy my properties and no FTB could afford them.




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    From having an average of 25 tenants at LBS, I have 3 now having asked Southwark what they want me to do with the building in planning terms. I am past my sell by date I know and ultimately Southwark want me gone. Just do a google search of London Bridge Street My building is my legacy for my children and grandchildren and I am not going anywhere except feet first.
    I have tenants at other properties who have been with me 20 years

    Sorry I do put my tenants first. I have given grants for the children's further education as for my grandchildren. Stay with renting Paul it is not just the money but it helps somebody.

    Article 8 Ehcr – Right to respect for private and family life

    1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

    2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

    Paul Barrett

    Your munificence is to be commended.
    However as you may well have noticed the Councils are not concerned as to the good things you may do.
    To them you are a Criminal and to be treated accordingly.
    If I was you I would sell up.
    You clearly aren't wanted by the Council.
    I suggest you take your capital to somewhere where you may be better appreciated.
    Even if you just liquidate your assets and live off the interest.
    Far lower maintenance for you which at your time of life is something you might wish to take advantage of.

     
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    whoops. I knew it you are under cover for Southwark!! All the buildings are for the next generations albeit. Goodnight Paul and thank you - watching Man City & Leicester

  • Paul Barrett

    Ha ha no never not me!
    Good luck with your munificence I hope the generations you are still working for will appreciate your endeavours.
    Clearly you will never receive any accolades from Southwark Council!!

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    Put money on Southwark thinking I'm H in Line of Duty

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