Couple fined £104,000 over illegal flats

A court has ruled that owners of an illegally converted property in west London should pay more than £104,000 in fines after they failed to comply with a planning enforcement notice.

The order was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which is usually used to seize proceeds from criminals such as drug dealers, but is also applicable to planning enforcement cases.

The couple had converted a property in Ealing into five flats without planning permission.

After the enforcement team at the London Borough of Ealing issued a warning the couple applied for planning permission retrospectively, but it was refused, and a planning inspector later dismissed the couple’s appeal.

Another enforcement notice was issued to stop the house being used as five flats. The couple appealed but the planning inspectorate dismissed the appeal in 2012 and gave them a further six months to comply with the notice.

Following this, the couple applied to convert the property into two flats, and was granted permission in 2012. However, the changes were not made and the couple did not comply with the enforcement notice.

Harrow Crown Court ordered fines of £5,000 each, and the couple were also ordered to pay the council’s court costs of more than £11,000, plus a victim surcharge.

The court also imposed a confiscation order of £83,000 to reflect the money the couple had accrued by renting out the flats after the enforcement notice compliance date expired.

Pat Hayes, the council’s executive director for regeneration and housing, said: "I cannot stress enough how important it is to obtain planning permission and follow regulations to ensure a property conversion is safe and legal.

"As this case demonstrates, the council will pursue anyone who flouts planning law and those found guilty could end up paying extremely stiff penalties."

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