Illegal flat development costs rogue landlord over £280,000

27 November 2020

Southwark Council successfully brought legal proceedings against a rogue landlord responsible for the development of five cramped sub-standard flats that were rented out above commercial premises on the Old Kent Road.

Mr Shafait Ali (51) of Deptford, London appeared before the Inner London Crown Court on 10 November 2020 for sentence and confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The Court were informed Mr Ali pleaded guilty in June 2018 to two offences of failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice under the Town and County Planning Act 1990.

The notice required Mr Ali to cease the use of a property at 719-725 Old Kent Road, London SE15 1JL as three self-contained flats and two non-self-contained flats. The notice also required the permanent removal of all fittings installed to facilitate the unauthorised conversion.

Following his guilty plea, confiscation proceedings were led by specialist financial investigators from Southwark Council’s Trading Standards team. This led to an agreed criminal benefit figure amounting to the rental income of £259,475.

At the hearing on 10 November 2020, the court ordered Mr Ali to pay the full criminal benefit figure and made a proceeds of crime confiscation order of £259,475. He was also sentenced to a fine and ordered to pay costs, totalling £23,400.59. This gives a grand total of £282,875.59. Mr Ali now has three months to pay the confiscation order or face two and half years in prison.

Five flats had been constructed on the first and second floors of the building without planning permission in an unauthorised change of use from previous office/light industrial use.

The prosecution was led by Southwark Council’s Planning Enforcement team who found the size of the flats to be well below minimum residential standards. They were so poorly constructed with inferior layouts and materials that they could never be granted planning permission. Some of the flats were rented to families even though they fell well short of the minimum dwelling size standards for occupancy by one or two persons.

Prohibition notices had also been served by the council’s Environmental Health Officers who found numerous fire, electrical and health concerns including:

  • No fire detection and inadequate means of escape
  • Some exit routes were through kitchens
  • Electrical sockets found in bathrooms
  • No heating in some bedrooms
  • Bathrooms with no ventilation

A council inspection in December 2017 confirmed the grossly undersized layout of the flats for. One flat was 35 square metres in area – two metres below the minimum for a one person flat as set out in national space standards. This flat was not arranged as a one person flat, but had three bedrooms, one with no windows and each bedroom had at least two bunk beds in it. The larger bedroom had two sets of bunk beds meaning that at least eight people were living in a flat too small for one person.

Cllr Johnson Situ, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Planning & Transport said: “We believe that everyone deserves a place that they’re proud to call home so it’s deeply shocking that families were cramped into properties not even big enough for one or two people. This is a great result and another success for our Planning and Trading Standards teams, whose joint efforts have amounted to nearly £1.5 million in confiscation orders issued to landlords renting out illegally converted properties in Southwark since 2019. The council remains committed to taking tough action against criminal landlords who would profit from the misery of their tenants by renting illegal and sub-standard properties.”

Page last updated: 27 November 2020