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Brent uses POCA against slum landlords

Words: Laura Edgar
No hiding place: Planners and the Proceeds of Crime Act

Brent Council has used the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) against slum landlords for breaches of licensing conditions.

Mum Harsha, 53, daughter Chandni, 27, and brother-in-law Sanjay Shah, 54, rented their four-bedroom property through an agent, Jaydipkumar Valand, 42, who managed up to 40 people living there.

Tenants paid between £40 and £75 a week for over five years to live in the semi-detached house, which was divided into seven bedrooms on the ground floor and two on the first floor.

Officers at the council also found a woman living next to the property in a shack that had no lighting or heating and was made out of wood offcuts and tarpaulin.

Recorder Rubin QC at Harrow Crown Court ordered that POCA could be used to recover criminal assets that the Shah family obtained from cramming tenants into filthy and dangerous living conditions.

Shah and her family have to pay a confiscation order for financial benefit gained or saved as a result of contraventions of the Management of HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Regulations 2006 and breaches of licensing conditions. It could amount to “hundreds of thousands of pounds,” according to a council statement.

Sanjay Shah lost his appeal against the charge of aiding and abetting the breaches of a term of selective licence attached to the property in Napier Road, Wembley, early in January. He also lost an appeal against his conviction for contraventions of the Management of HMO Regulations 2006.

Valand, who collected approximately £112,000 in rent from the tenants for the family in 2015 to 2016, may be ordered to repay any financial benefit gained under this POCA ruling.

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."

Edmund Robb, counsel from Prospect Law who represented Brent in the hearing, said: “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.”

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No hiding place: Planners and the Proceeds of Crime Act

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