London landlord pays dearly for overcrowding

A London landlord and property developer has been made to pay heavily for creating and exploiting overcrowded rental properties in contravention of planning permissions.

Highbrow Properties Limited and its sole director Iftikhar Ahmed have been ordered to pay back £230,000 in illegally collected rent, to pay various fines and costs and to demolish or rectify the illegally constructed flats.

This follows a prosecution brought by Southwark Council after Ahmed and his company had illegally squashing seven flats into a development that only had planning permission for six. In addition, three of the flats built had extra-unauthorised bedrooms. ‘These added to the already cramped and sub-standard conditions’, said the council.

It had found that six of the flats at 2A Boyson Road, Walworth, London SE17, were below minimum standards and so poorly designed that five had no dedicated storage space at all. In addition, the flats were let as temporary accommodation and short-term holiday lets. This was unauthorised and, said the council, resulted in the loss of much needed permanent accommodation.

Ahmed pleaded guilty when appearing at the end of last month before the Inner London Crown Court for sentencing and confiscation proceedings, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The council ordered Ahmed to demolish the unauthorised flats, or correct the development so that it met with the original planning permission. He was also told to stop using the properties for temporary accommodation.

Following the guilty pleas, the court agreed that Ahmed had illegally gained £230,000 in rent. It ordered him or the company to pay a proceeds of crime confiscation order of £230,000. Ahmed faces two years in prison if the confiscation order is not paid in three months.

In addition, Highbrow Properties Limited incurred fines and costs of £25,000, while Ahmed must pay fines and costs of £13,000.

Southwark Council cabinet member responsible for a safer, cleaner borough, Darren Merrill, said Ahmed’s blatant attempt to shoehorn an additional flat and extra bedrooms into the development, had compromised the entire block. ‘This court result serves as warning that planning control breaches will not be tolerated and supports the council in cracking down on those who try to benefit from renting illegal and sub-standard properties in Southwark’.

Highbrow Properties Limited, incorporated in 2014, lists Ahmed as its sole director. The company has a registered office in Dartford, Kent, but a correspondence address Stockwell, London SW9. Its last accounts, for the year ended February 2021, showed a new worth of £1.3m. It owned investment property with a balance sheet value of £3m and appeared to have made profits of £41,000 during the year.