Three Brent landlords are facing hundreds of thousands of pounds in fines after cramming 40 migrants into a semi-detached home.
Harsha Shah, 53, her daughter Chandni, 27, and brother-in-law Sanjay, 54, let their four-bedroom property through an agent. At one point, 40 Indian migrants were residing in the property.
The Shah family, along with agent Jaydipkumar Valand, 42, were paid between £40 and £75 per week in cash by the tenants. The house’s inhabitants also paid to have food delivered as the kitchen was not usable. The property was divided into seven bedrooms on the ground floor, with two upstairs. There was just one kitchen and two bathrooms between all of the tenants.
The court was told that the tenants lived five to a room in bunkbeds. The landlords earned around £360,000 between them. However, the local authority are currently attempting to reclaim the money as they are not eligible for a rent recovery or confiscation order.
The Shahs had a licence to rent to one family, but did not have permission to run a house of multiple occupancy (HMO). They had also allowed the home to fall into disrepair.
On behalf of Brent Borough Council, Edmund Robb told Recorder Stephen Rubin QC that the council is only able to claim back any housing benefit paid, however under the proceeds of crime act the rent paid can also be claimed. Brent Council have yet to make a decision on the exact amount the defendants will pay.
Following a trial at Willesden Magistrates Court, the Shah family was found guilty of the failure to obtain a multi-occupancy license. Sanjay Shah was also found guilty of aiding and abetting.
Acting for Harsha and her daughter Chandni Shah, Cameron Scott, argued that taking the rent from the migrants was not an offence. By this logic, a confiscation order could not be enforced.
He said: ‘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.’
The confiscation hearing is due to continue at a later date.