London: An Indian-origin family who colluded with a property agent to let out their four-bedroom house in north London to more than 40 immigrants have been found guilty of overcrowding by a court in London.
Harsha Shah, 53, her daughter Chandni, 27, and her brother-in-law Sanjay, 54, worked with agent Jaydipkumar Valand, 42, to illegally undertake multiple tenancies at the 1920s property which they also let fall into a state of disrepair, a UK court was told this week.
The house, described as a “slum”, was divided into seven bedrooms on the ground floor, two on the first floor and crammed with as many as five people per room for rents between 40 and 75 pounds per week, the Harrow Crown Court was told.
The occupants had just two bathrooms to share between them and the fire exits were all blocked, causing a safety hazard.
While the Shah family and Valand were convicted in May 2017, they are now fighting against having to hand over nearly 360,000 pounds obtained as rent during the course of the tenancy at a confiscation hearing at the Court.
Edmund Robb, appearing on behalf of the local Brent Borough Council, told Judge Stephen Rubin that besides claiming back any housing benefits paid out by the authority, the rent paid can also be seized under the UK’s proceeds of crime act.
“Receiving rent was in breach of a selective licence. If they had complied with the regulations the money would not have come into their hands. 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,” he said.
However, the defence argued that taking the rent from the migrants was not an offence, and therefore, a confiscation order was not enforceable.
“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,” said lawyer Cameron Scott.
Judge Rubin will reserve his judgment on whether a proceeds of crime order can be enforced.
Meanwhile, following a trial at Willesden Magistrates Court in 2017, the Shah family were found guilty of failing to have the proper licence and will be sentenced at a later date.