London Landlords who crammed up to 40 migrants inside their semi-detached townhouse face losing hundreds of thousands pounds, a court has heard.
Mr Harsha Shah, her daughter Chandni, and brother-in-law Sanjay, rented out their four-bedroom property through an agent who at one point managed 40 Indian migrants living in the their house.
It is alleged that for five years the Shah family, together with agent Jaydipkumar Valand, were paid between £40 and £75 per week in cash by the tenants for rent and to have food delivered because the kitchen was not useable.
Mr Harsha Shah, daughter Chandni, and brother-in-law Sanjay, now face paying back £360,000 after they and their agent, Jaydipkumar Valand, received between £40 and £75 per week from the tenants for rent and food deliveries.
The family whose wider family owned 12 properties, were all convicted at Willesden Magistrates Court last May for failing to have a house of multiple occupancy licence, as the house was only licenced to house one family.
The family were also convicted for failing to comply with regulations in maintaining the house. Sanjay Shah was also found guilty of aiding and abetting.
The local authority, Brent Borough Council, is now fighting to get some of the money back, arguing that it should not only be entitled to any housing benefit the landlords received but also any rent paid under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The council is yet to decide how much it wishes to obtain from the family as it continues its investigation.
“‘It is unlawful to continue to receive the rent when you are not complying with the conditions of a selective licence which says you can only rent it to one family of seven people,” said Edmund Robb, on behalf of Brent Borough Council, to Recorder Stephen Rubin QC.
“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.”
Robb added that recovering money from the Shahs will be a ‘forensic process’ which could take months due to the ‘great deal of money’ at stake.
Cameron Scott, acting for Harsha and her daughter, Chandni, has argued that taking the rent from the tenants was not illegal, and therefore the family’s money should not be confiscated.
“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,” Scott said.
“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.”
The Shah family and Valand will be sentenced for their crimes at a later date. They will also later find out whether the council is entitled to confiscate rent under a Proceeds of Crime Order.