A rogue landlord faces a court bill of almost £40,000 after being caught cramming 24 people into a house in Wembley.
Willesden Magistrates' Court heard Tilak Raj Sarna of George V Avenue in Pinner initially claim innocence but then accept his guilt after two days of cross examination.
Brent Council granted Sarna a licence to house seven people at his house in multiple occupation (HMO) on Bowrons Avenue, but when Brent housing enforcement officers made an unannounced visit to the house in January 2016 they found 24 tenants living there, including seven families with 10 young children.
The squalid conditions at the house included:
- An infestation of cockroaches
- Blatant disregard of basic fire safety measures, with missing smoke alarms, overloaded electrical sockets and inadequate fire doors
- Cold and damp rooms
- Overflowing bins outside the house
Six tenants lived in an unheated shed in the house's back garden until it burnt down in October last year in a fire caused by a portable heater. The blaze, which started while a child was asleep in the shed, was exacerbated by the sheer number of people living in such a small space.
The magistrates threw the book at Sarna for his overcrowding and fire safety offences, with fines totalling £33,000. He was also ordered to pay costs of £6,420 and a £120 victim surcharge, making a total of £39,540.
The case also saw a prosecution for Mrs Anila Patel, who collected £3,700 monthly rent from the tenants on the landlord's behalf. She was convicted of two offences and fined £1,000 and told to pay a £90 victim surcharge.
All the tenants living in the property have since found alternative accommodation.
Cllr Harbi Farah, Brent Council's Lead Member for Housing, said: "This case underlines the necessity of our commitment to ensuring private tenants in our borough have safe, high quality accommodation. In situations like this, unscrupulous landlords are not only taking financial advantage of vulnerable tenants; they're also placing tenants' lives in danger.
"We are improving standards in Brent's private rented properties by working with landlords through our property licensing regime, which helps ensure that tenants do not have to live in filthy, dangerous accommodation."
Cllr Margaret McLennan, Brent Council's Deputy Leader, accompanied officers on the raid in January. She said: "Where we find serious breaches of the law like this, we will always take landlords and their agents to court. Mr Sarna had housed a family in the garden shed and had grossly overcrowded the two storey property, leaving tenants in an unsafe, damp and cockroach-infested house while taking £3,700 off them each month for the privilege.
"As he had been granted a licence Mr Sarna knew exactly what was required of him, so we are very pleased that the court shared our view of the seriousness of the offences and imposed such severe penalties".
Most private landlords in Brent are legally required to obtain a licence from the council. You can find out more at www.brent.gov.uk/prslicensing.