Rental flat repossessed after being converted into illegal HMO
A buy to let investor has lost possession of his flat after converting it into an Illegal House in Multiple Occupation and failing to pay significant council tax and service charges.
John Abraka of Harold Hill in London converted a three-bedroom family flat that he had purchased under the Right To Buy scheme in Barking into an illegal HMO without obtaining the correct landlord license or planning permission from the local council.
He turned the living room into a makeshift bedroom and tenants from four different households were living in the property. This included parents with a young child living in one of the rooms.
The council began enforcement action in 2016 and served a Planning Enforcement Notice requiring him to return the property to a single-family dwelling. In February 2017, Abraka pleaded guilty to Planning and Licensing breaches; however, he later made an application to change his plea and a new trial date was scheduled.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in June 2017 the council undertook an urgent inspection of every leasehold property in council managed high rise residential buildings, to check that landlords were not putting their tenants at risk.
Abraka’s flat was found to still be rented out to multiple occupants despite the pending court case. No attempts to comply with the Enforcement Notice had been taken. The property still had no proper fire doors or other fire protection and was completely devoid of smoke alarms.
Abraka had also built up debts of around £11,000 through unpaid council tax and in April 2018 the council had him declared bankrupt. The Department of Works and Pensions also prosecuted Abraka for benefit fraud.
He was also in arrears to the council for approximately £62,000 for non-payment of service charges and ‘major works’ funds.
Abraka’s mortgage company has now taken possession of the flat, as he had also failed to make the mortgage repayments.
In November 2018, the mortgage company agreed to repay the council the service charge arrears and costs. The mortgage company was then granted the lease in their name, removing Abraka from the property title.