A landlord who built unlawful extensions to a family home and squeezed up to 14 people into the rooms has forfeited the rent he was paid in a planning enforcement prosecution.
Jagtar Phagura created five bedrooms in extensions built without planning permission and filled them with renters as part of a house in multiple occupation, a HMO.
A judge has ordered the 64-year-old to forfeit the rents he earned, more than £109,000, within three months or spend 18 months in jail. He was also ordered to pay a £18,000 fine.
The confiscation hearing at Reading Crown Court was told Mr Phagura was the landlord and owner of a property in Mirador Crescent, Upton Lea, which was purchased as a three bedroomed home covering two floors.
In 2015 the property was extended to the side and rear, as well as a loft conversion, without the relevant planning permissions creating a further five bedrooms over three floors.
Each of the eight rooms could be rented out by single people or couples and in some cases just a bed was rented to tenants. In some rooms there were three beds and 14 people were found living in the end of terrace property.
The owner failed to act after receiving correspondence from the council’s planning enforcement team. Subsequently, a Planning Enforcement Notice was issued in August 2015 which required the unauthorised building work be demolished within three months.
However, Mr Phagura did not comply with the statutory notice and continued to collect rent from people living in the rooms in the unlawful extensions at the property.
Mr Phagura was prosecuted by the council and he admitted failing to comply with the planning enforcement notice contrary to Section 179(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 at Reading Magistrates’ Court in November 2019.
As of September 2020 retrospective planning permission was granted for two of the previous five rooms in the extended part of the house.
The council’s corporate fraud team pursued Mr Phagura for the profits he made from renting out the five bedrooms in the unlawful extensions under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
He appeared at Reading Crown Court on Thursday 11 February and the judge authorised a Confiscation Order of £109,273.16 , calculated as rent he earned from the five rooms in the unlawful addition.
Mr Phagura, of Hewett Lane, Hook, Hants., was also ordered to pay a £18,000 fine and the council’s costs of £13,150.
The judge gave him three months to pay or spend 18 months in jail. He will still have to pay back to proceeds even if he does go to jail.
Councillor Pavitar K. Mann, cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “There is no room in the borough for landlords who do not have the correct planning permissions and make money from unlawful developments.
“We welcome the judges ruling and it indicates to others we will take similar matters extremely seriously.”