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Rogue landlord crams 40 people into Wembley townhouse

Landlords who crammed up to 40 migrants inside their semi-detached townhouse face losing over a third of a million pounds they made, a court heard.

Credit: SWNS

Mum Harsha, 53, daughter Chandni, 27, and brother-in-law Sanjay Shah, 54, rented their four bedroom property through an agent who at one point managed 40 people living there.

Credit: SWNS

For over five years the Shah family, together with agent Jaydipkumar Valand, 42, were paid between £40 and £75 per week in cash by the tenants for rent and to have food delivered because the kitchen was unusable.

Inside the property in Wembley, north London, fire exits were blocked and tenants were living in bunk beds in a the garden shed surrounded by sacks of rice.

Credit: SWNS

The 1920s property rented for £6,000 a month was divided into seven bedrooms on the ground floor, two on the first floor.

Tenants were crammed five-to-a-room in bunkbeds and shared just two bathrooms and one kitchen between them.

Credit: SWNS

The landlords made around £360,000 but the local authority are now fighting to get the money back, as they are not liable a rent recovery or a confiscation order.

Harrow Crown Court heard the Shah's had a licence to rent to one family, but did not have a licence for a house of multiple occupancy.

Credit: SWNS

They also allowed the property to fall into disrepair and refused to manage its upkeep as large holes appeared in the ceilings.

The Shah family and Valand were convicted in May but Sanjay Shah tried unsuccessfully to get his conviction overturned at the High Court.

Edmund Robb, on behalf of Brent Borough Council, told Recorder Stephen Rubin QC the council can only claim back any housing benefit paid, but under the proceeds of crime act the rent paid can also be seized.

He added Brent Council are yet to come decide on exact amounts they wish to obtain from the defendants as investigations continue.

UK Border Force, who raided the property, described it as the worst example of overcrowding it had ever seen.

There was a minimum of 25 people living in the house and there could at any one time be up to 40 people living in the house.

The wider Shah family owned at least 12 properties.

The local authority has neither POCA or a rent recovery order available.

– Edmund Robb, Brent Borough Council

Following a trial at Willesden Magistrates Court the Shah family were found guilty of failing to have a HMO licence while Sanjay Shah was also found guilty of aiding and abetting.

Cameron Scott, acting for Harsha and her daughter Chandni Shah, argued taking the rent from the migrants was not an offence, and therefore a confiscation order was not enforcebale.

We say that receiving the rent is not a criminal offence and neither is continuing the tenancy.

They are clearly in breach of the law, but the receiving of rent was not illegal.

For the offence of not having a licence and the equivalent offence for not having a selective licence if that is all you have your rent cannot be subject to confiscation.

If however you do have a licence and you breach a condition the game changes because what has been suggested the receipt of rent becomes illegal and it becomes criminal conduct and therefore confiscation applies, in my submission that is an absurd result.

The conduct of business, carrying on the rental and continuing to receive rent while conditions of a licence are in breach is not in itself a criminal offence.

– Cameron Scott

The confiscation hearing is due to continue at a later date and Recorder Rubin will reserved his judgement on whether a proceeds of crime order can be enforced.

The Shah family and Valand are to be sentenced at a later date.