Published: 12:34, 08 September 2020
| Updated: 12:52, 08 September 2020
A rogue landlord who left residents living in a dangerous and illegal hostel has been handed two suspended sentences.
The former Convent of Mercy in Sycamore Drive, Swanley was once run by nuns but in recent years its occupier's behaviour has been less than holy.
It was converted into use as an illegal hostel and has been served with numerous enforcement notices dating back to 2014.
These related to complaints over noise, unauthorised building works and fire safety, amid other concerns.
Mustafa Kemal Mustafa, of Briar Lane, West Wickham in Bromley, was found to have placed tenants lives at risk through his neglect and was sentenced at Croydon Crown Court.
It comes after a double prosecution brought by Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The court heard how Mustafa ignored fire service notices which prohibited the use of a first floor kitchen and a makeshift hostel for living or sleeping.
Following an investigation, significant defects within the building’s fire detection system were also identified.
He pleaded guilty to these offences at Croydon Crown Court in September 2019, after which the judge postponed sentencing pending the HSE related prosecution.
Mustafa later appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on February 21 where he plead guilty to a string of health and safety related offences brought by the watchdog.
The leaseholder was sentenced to an 11 month jail term which was suspended for two years for the fire safety related offences.
This is to run concurrently with the further sanctions for the health and safety offences, which was a 13 month custodial sentence, suspended for two years.
In addition, he must serve 300 hours' unpaid community service over 15 months, is disqualified from being a company director, and must pay £8,000 in costs.
Anti-social behaviour complaints forces former convent to close in 2018
Complaints about anti-social behaviour at the property date back several years.
Abatement notices were served due to foul smelling bonfires and unacceptable noise in 2014 and 2016, while the police have repeatedly been called out and at one point seized a stolen car.
Mustafa was handed a £15,000 fine last year after ignoring a planning enforcement notice issued by Sevenoaks Council and continuing to house people, prompting the authority to obtain a closure order in 2018 .
In December owners Bhupinderjeet Kullar and Narinder Kullar were also fined thousands of pounds for their role.
KFRS praised the outcome of the case, adding "where necessary we will take action".
Mark Woodward, the fire service's group manager for building safety, said: “The outcome of this case sends out a very clear message to those responsible for residential properties - they must make sure that the fire safety measures in their buildings meet minimum standards and are kept in good working order so people’s lives are not put at risk.
“Kent Fire and Rescue Service is committed to ensuring that all buildings in the county are safe, and where necessary we will take action and prosecute those who not only fail to provide adequate fire safety arrangements, but who then go on to deliberately ignore notices we serve to minimise risks until they can be remedied.”
HSE Inspector Joanne Williams added: “HSE is dedicated to ensuring that business owners and landlords operate within the law and provide safe accommodation for tenants and a safe place to work for employees.
"We do not tolerate disregard for health and safety and consider the non-compliance of HSE enforcement notices as a serious offence.
“In this case Mr Mustafa chose to flagrantly ignore the support, guidance and warnings from HSE to assist his compliance with the law and continued placing people at serious risk of injury or even death.”
Insp Williams added: “Wherever possible we will continue to work with companies to improve health and safety.
"However, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action where necessary and prosecute individuals and businesses who ignore warnings and the law.”