East Ham couple fined £86,000 after turning office block into illegal flats

The couple turned Cambridge House into 14 flats, but only had permission for 10. Picture: Google

The couple turned Cambridge House into 14 flats, but only had permission for 10. Picture: Google - Credit: Google

A couple from East Ham who illegally turned an office block into 14 flats have been fined £86,000.

Exposed wiring in the illegally converted property. Picture: LBBD

Exposed wiring in the illegally converted property. Picture: LBBD - Credit: LBBD

Soorippilla Balasingham, 62, told council officers he and his wife Bavany raked in at least £8,000 to £10,000 every month in rent from the Cambridge House building near Barking station.

The couple spent £1.21 million for the former Charter Security offices in Cambridge Road, Barking a decade ago.

Soorippilla and Bavany, 53, submitted 10 applications to change three-storey block to entirely residential use between 2013 and 2016.

While some of their requests were granted, the work was never carried out and applications kept coming in.

Post boxes at the property. Picture: LBBD

Post boxes at the property. Picture: LBBD - Credit: LBBD

When council officers visited the premises in August 2014, they issued an enforcement notice ordering the building be restored to its original state.

The Balasinghams’ appeal against the decision was dismissed, giving them until July 2016 to undo the alterations.

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But an inspection in October that year found the order was simply shrugged off.

Instead, the duo had divided the ground floor into eight flats and the first floor into six, despite only having permission for 10 flats overall.

Cambridge House in August 2008, when the Balasinghams bought the property. Picture: Google

Cambridge House in August 2008, when the Balasinghams bought the property. Picture: Google - Credit: Google

Inspectors also found multiple issues within the property, including fire safety concerns, said a spokesman for Barking and Dagenham Council.

When interviewed under caution, Mr Balasingham admitted responsibility for owning and managing the building.

The couple were sentenced to pay £43,000 each after being found guilty of failing to comply with the enforcement notice at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court.

They were sent to Snaresbrook Crown Court on Friday after the prosecution applied for a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Another hearing is listed for 14 September.

Cllr Laila Butt said the case was “a classic example of a landlord putting profit ahead of people”.

Barking and Dagenham Council’s cabinet member for enforcement and community safety said the couple, who live in Kensington Avenue, “chose to ignore regulations and do what they want, when they want.”

“This is not just a victory for the council but also for residents who are left living in unsafe, illegal homes,” she added.

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