Deptford landlord to pay £280,000 or face jail after illegally housing residents

The illegal flat development on Old Kent Road. Pic: Southwark Council

A landlord faces jail if he cannot pay more than £280,000 after he housed eight people in a flat deemed illegal for even one resident. 

Shafait Ali, 51, from Deptford, had converted offices on Old Kent Road into five flats without any planning permission.

A report from Southwark Council deemed the homes were grossly unfit to live in, with no smoke detectors or proper fire escapes, bathrooms with electrical sockets and no ventilation, and no heating in some bedrooms.

One flat was 35 square metres in area – as shown in the diagram below – two metres below the minimum of 37 square metres for a one person flat, as set out in national space standards.

However, the 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.

One of the flats which housed eight residents compared to the national space standard. Pic: Caitlin Tilley

Southwark Council successfully prosecuted the landlord at the Inner London Crown Court on November 10, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Ali had pleaded guilty in June 2018 to two offences of failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The notice required Ali to stop using the property at 719-725 Old Kent Road as three self-contained flats and two non-self-contained flats.

A cramped bedrooms in one of the flats. Pic: Southwark Council

Southwark Council’s Trading Standards team calculated Ali had made £259,475 renting out the flats so he was served with a proceeds of crime confiscation order for that figure. He was also fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £23,400.59. If he does not pay the confiscation order within three months, he will face two and a 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 and light industrial use.

Southwark Council’s planning enforcement team discovered the flats were so poorly built they would never be granted planning permission.

Councillor 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.”

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