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Garage used as studio apartment deemed unlawful

A Walthamstow landlord has been told they must stop using a garage as a studio apartment, after their appeal against a Waltham Forest Council enforcement notice was thrown out by the Planning Inspectorate.

The enforcement notice was served on land at 32 Erskine Road by Council officers on 26 June 2014. It required the owner, Mr Khalid Khan, to stop using the garage as a self-contained residential unit, and remove all items associated with residential use. This included beds, cookers, kitchen units, sinks and a toilet.

While Mr Khan did not dispute that he had breached planning control by using the garage as an apartment, he appealed the notice on grounds that it was too late for the Council to take enforcement action as the change of use had taken place in April 2009. The time limit for taking action against a development like this is four years, as long as the building remained occupied with only minimal breaks during this period.

While Mr Khan was able to submit three shorthold tenancy agreements for the apartment since 2009, there were significant gaps between them amounting to a number of months, with no explanation for the breaks in occupation. The Planning Inspectorate also ruled that these agreements did not necessarily confirm the building was occupied during these times. When Council officers visited the property in December 2011 they found the building to be vacant, with photographic evidence.

The Planning Inspectorate ruled that the appeal had failed on 10 July 2015, and that the Council’s enforcement notice should be upheld. Mr Khan now has three months to comply with the notice.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment said: “We are pleased that the Planning Inspectorate has ruled in favour of the Council in this case. This is a classic ‘bed in shed’ case and should serve as a warning to other landlords who try and sidestep planning permission and the law to make a quick buck in our borough, often by exploiting vulnerable residents, by renting out ill-conceived and totally inappropriate accommodation.

“The message is simple - where we identify these properties we will do all in our powers to shut them down. To achieve that outcome we rely on local intelligence and our local residents are our prime source of that intelligence, so please continue to report your suspicions to us.”

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