£300,000 recovered by London boroughs in relation to illegal residential conversions

Out-Law News | 13 Jul 2012 | 4:54 pm | 1 min. read

The London boroughs of Brent and Harrow have successfully taken action under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) against a landlord prosecuted for converting 4 houses into 28 flats without planning permission.

The landlord was fined £303,000 under POCA, which reflects the rent allegedly received by the landlord. The landlord was also required to pay £7,515 in relation to planning breaches and £18,000 in legal fees. 

The landlord was given six months to pay the fine and, in the event of non-payment, faces three and a half years in prison. Half the fine will be paid to HM Treasury, and the remaining amount will be split between the councils, Harrow and Brent Trading Standards and the court collection agency.

Where a person has been convicted of a criminal offence, in certain circumstances under the POCA, local authorities can recover the proceeds from the criminal activity. This applies to convictions for breaches of planning control and the legislation has been used previously in a handful of enforcement cases. One such case involved two offenders being prosecuted for failing to comply with an enforcement notice to stop operating a park and ride facility near Stansted Airport in breach of planning permission. The Court fined one of the offenders £760,000 under the POCA.

"The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in a Local Authority's enforcement tool box," said planning law expert Simon Colvin of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "Regulators such as the Environment Agency have been employing POCA for some time. The Agency has a dedicated and growing team that focuses solely on its use to punish offenders and recover the proceeds of crime. Recovery of sums in the region of £1m is becoming more common."

"POCA is complicated and its complexity is deterring a number of local authorities from employing it," said Colvin. "As more and more local authorities become alive to the benefits of POCA and they start to share experiences and learning, I expect its use will become much more prevalent."