A rogue landlord has had £112,500 in illegally gained rent confiscated after being convicted three times for breaching planning enforcement notices following three Richmond Council prosecutions.
Piara Singh Sehajpal did not have planning permission to operate three houses as flats. He was fined £21,000 after being convicted of breaching the enforcement notices under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
At Kingston Crown Court, Her Honour Judge Georgina Kent was told by Richmond Council prosecutors that father of four Mr Sehajpal had rented rooms at around £800 per month each, despite not having planning consent.
Cllr Gareth Elliott said: "This is a win for common sense. It is high time landlords who abuse the system for personal gain to the detriment of those around them pay the price. Whitton's unique character must be preserved and the conversion to multiple flats of what had been family homes was not in keeping with the tranquil and pleasant family atmosphere of Rydal Gardens. This win is a testament to the people power of the resident's of Rydal Gardens who have campaigned consistently for this outcome."
Cllr Virginia Morris, Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning, said: “This is the best outcome we could have hoped for. People may think planning is frustrating and time consuming, but planning laws must be complied with. This case absolutely proves planning enforcement prosecutions do have teeth and can make a difference when required, especially when coupled with the new Confiscation Orders created by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
“Neighbours have no doubt been concerned about how these houses have been used and I am pleased we can now explain to them what has been happening and how it has been dealt with. It will also serve as a very sharp reminder to other landlords thinking they can try to dodge the law. Planning rules exist for a reason and we will always do our utmost to ensure they are upheld.”
The three houses were 12 Rydal Gardens, Whitton, which had been split into four flats; 29 South Road, Twickenham (nine flats) and 4 Palmeston Road, Twickenham (three flats).
Each property was subject to a separate Planning Enforcement Notice that allowed six months for the property to be returned to a family home. Planning Enforcement Officers visited them and wrote to the defendant so he was aware of the correct planning consent required.
Mr Sehajpal admitted three offences in front of magistrates last year and in March 2011 of breaching three Richmond Council enforcement notices requiring him to return the properties to single homes, contrary to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. His case was transferred to Crown Court for sentencing and for a confiscation order to be dealt with.
When he appeared before the crown court judge last week, he was sentenced to a fine of £7,000 per offence, amounting to £21,000.
He was further ordered to pay £9,973 towards the Council’s prosecution costs. Mr Sehajpal must pay the full amount within 12 months and was told if he did not, he would face 18 months in prison.
Under section six of the Proceeds of Crime Act, on Friday 18 November the Judge also ruled a Confiscation Order for £112,500 should be issued against Mr Sehajpal taking away the financial benefit to his offending behaviour through letting out the properties without planning permission.
In his statement, Mr Sehajpal, of Honeysuckle Close, Iver, Buckinghamshire, (dob 1/1/1954) described the offences as “minor breaches of planning law” that were a “matter of naivety” on his part.
In her ruling, Judge Kent said undermining planning controls was offensive to neighbours and caused them distress and upset. The judge said Mr Sehajpal knew he needed consent to convert the three family homes to flats, but had a blatant disregard for planning controls to make money. She accepted he had been of previous good character and took into account his early guilty pleas, but considered it was so serious a breach of planning law that that a significant fine was justified.