Oct 4 2012 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
A ROGUE landlord faces 10 years in prison if he does not forfeit nearly £1½million in profits gained from illegally converting a house into sub-standard accommodation.
Salah Ali must find the money as a result of a confiscation order issued by a judge after he breached planning regulations at a property in Willesden Lane, Kilburn.
Ali, aged 52, of Carlton Avenue East, Wembley, had failed to comply with a 2008 enforcement notice from Brent Council demanding he stop using the house as 12 bedsits.
He had been told to revert the property back to a single family home, as well as demolish single-storey extensions built without permission on the side and rear.
After Ali failed to comply with the notice, the council’s planning enforcement team invoked powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover some of Ali’s profits from renting out the accommodation.
He was prosecuted under the act and the case concluded at Norwich Crown Court on Tuesday last week, when the judge ordered Ali to pay £1,438,000 within six months or face a 10-year prison sentence.
Council officers believe the sum – based on the assumed benefit Ali received from breaching planning regulations – is the most valuable ever granted for a planning offence.
Brent Council had already launched an investigation into Ali’s activities by the time it refused retrospective planning permission for the extension and conversion of the part two and part three-storey house into six flats in February last year.
Three of the flats would not have met the minimum standards for floor space.
Councillors were told in a report at the time: “The reason for issuing the notice include the impact of the extension and excavations on the character and appearance of the surrounding area, the poor quality of the accommodation on site and the loss of amenity space as a result of the excavations in the rear garden.”
Ali was also fined £4,000 for the breach of planning regulations and ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of almost £35,000.
Brent Council will receive 37.5 per cent – £539,250 – of the confiscated money and the rest will go to the Treasury and the Court Collection Agency. A restraint order was placed on Ali to prevent him from disposing of his assets as a way of avoiding paying the huge sum.
The case started off at Harrow Crown Court and was concluded at Norwich because the judge had been relocated there.
Brent Council’s assistant director of planning and major projects, Chris Walker, said after the court verdict: “This landlord ignored planning rules designed to ensure that the quality of accommodation in the borough is maintained and that the environment for surrounding residents is protected.
“He ignored the council’s notices and, as a result, he profited hugely from this sub-standard accommodation.”