Councils and the courts are getting tough on landlords who fail to comply with the law, and are starting to use the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to make breaking the law an expensive pastime.
Here are two cases.
Norwich City Council – Mr Jospeh Howman – Norwich Magistrates Court – 12/10/2012
Howman pleased guilty to nine offences under the Multiple Occupation regs and failing to meet standards. His property in Norwich was let as 10 bedsits with shared bathrooms. Problems included
- no heating in the rooms
- no hot water in the main bathroom,
- dirty communal bathrooms
- fire doors in poor condition with many not working, and
- electrical hazards, including hanging wires and defective lighting.
Howman was fined £5,000 plus a £135 victim surcharge and £8,500 costs AND was ordered to pay £40,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002. Total award £53,500.
Norwich City Council is the first local authority in the country to use POCA against a landlord who failed to comply with license conditions. (see the report here)
However this fine pales into insignificance beside the order in my next case
Brent Council – Mr Ali – Norwich Crown Court – 25/09/2012
This was a prosecution under the planning regulations which followed a two year investigation by officers from Brent into Mr Ali. The prosecution involved a property which had been turned into 12 flats without planning permission.
Ali was ordered to pay a fine of £4000 for the breach of the planning regulations and legal costs of almost £35,000.
However the significant part of the order was an eye popping £1.438 million under the Proceeds of Crime Act (the highest every award under this act for a planning offence) and is based on the benefit he is believed to have got from the illegal conversion.
The press release here tells us that
Brent Council will receive 37.5 per cent of the money and the rest will go to the treasury and the court collection agency.
A restraint order has been placed on Mr Ali to prevent him from disposing of his assets before he fulfils his obligations and pays the £1.438 million.
The Judge ordered that must pay the sum within six months or face a ten year prison sentence. It rather looks therefore as if they will get the money.
Two cases where crime did not pay. Maybe now Councils will be encouraged to do a few more.