A Brent landlord has been fined almost £7,500 for cramming six families into a suburban semi-detached house.
Willesden Magistrates Court heard that Mohammed Mehdi Ali of Barn Hill in Wembley had not bothered to licence the property, which was built as a four bedroom family home but now has six bedsit-style rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom.
A raid by council enforcement officers found 16 people living in the property, including at least six children. Each of the rooms were rented out to a different family or group, which each only had their bedroom as living space because the lounge was being used as a bedroom. The tenants were sharing just one bathroom and two toilets between them.
Overcrowding in the property was made worse by Mr Ali's blatant disregard of basic fire safety measures. Despite earning at least £2,300 a month in rent from the house, he had not installed adequate smoke alarms or fire doors.
Mr Ali lives next door to the rental property on Barn Hill - something the court considered to be an aggravating factor in the case, as he would have been fully aware of what was going on in the rented house.
As he did not attend court, Mr Ali was convicted in his absence of offences under the Housing Act 2004 and fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,318 and a victim surcharge of £170 - a total of £7,488.
Mr Ali had used a letting agents, Easy Let Homes, to collect rent on his behalf. The company pleaded guilty to offences under the Housing Act 2004 and was fined £450 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £45. The magistrates said that they had taken the company's full cooperation into consideration.
Cllr Harbi Farah, Brent Council's Lead Member for Housing, said: "Given the serious overcrowding and poor fire safety in this house, we could easily be reflecting on a much more serious crime here.
"The contempt Mr Ali has shown for this legal process by not even bothering to turn up for sentencing speaks volumes. The vast majority of landlords and lettings agents in Brent are honest and law abiding, but we take a zero tolerance approach to the minority who think they can treat their tenants like this. Failure to licence your property could result in an unlimited fine and a criminal record."
Most private landlords in Brent are legally required to obtain a licence for their properties from the council. You can find out more at www.brent.gov.uk/prslicensing.