Court victory against illegal accommodation networks

The City of Sydney’s Illegal Accommodation Strike Force has secured the conviction of the landlord responsible for operating an illegal hostel disguised by a Chippendale shop.

Mr Amr Hassan was yesterday convicted and fined $100,000 plus legal costs of $61,426 in the Downing Centre Local Court for converting part of the ‘Banana Supermarket’ retail premises in Regent Street, Chippendale for residential use.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the court outcome demonstrates how seriously the City takes the practice that risks the safety of our most vulnerable young residents.

“This case sends a message that illegal, dangerous accommodation networks will not be tolerated in the city, and the people who profit from them will be prosecuted,” the Lord Mayor said.

“For the past year, the City has ramped up efforts to shut down illegal accommodation providers, with more investigations and close cooperation with NSW Police, as well as education campaigns targeting universities and tertiary institutions to advise students about safe rental choices.”

The City is the first council in NSW to establish a dedicated investigation team to crack down on illegal and unsafe short-term accommodation networks.

The investigation team was created to identify organised illegal accommodation operators and, along with other teams at the City, support occupants to ensure they find safe and secure home environments.

The team includes former Scotland Yard detective, Roy Cottam, former NSWPF officer Liam Saville and former Australian Military Police officer Greg Stevens to help target illegal accommodation providers such as Mr Hassan. The team takes a multi-agency approach with NSW Police Force, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Fair Trading, the Australian Tax Office and other relevant agencies.

Since it was established in May 2015, the team has successfully disrupted a number of large-scale illegal accommodation networks, led 30 search warrants and carried out a significant number of suspect interviews that have gleaned significant amounts of evidence. Some of this evidence is being used to formulate two significant cases.

The team has also inspected more than 100 separate premises and issued over 80 notices and orders and issued fines totalling $75,000. It is currently undertaking criminal proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court in relation to unauthorised use of an industrial estate for short-term accommodation.

The City’s investigative specialist, Roy Cottam said the result is thanks to a long and resource intensive investigation.

“This is a fantastic result for the City particularly in light of the lengths the defendant was prepared to go to in order to avoid liability” Mr Cottam said.

“It is hoped that this conviction and penalty imposed by the court sends out a strong message to the community, that this type of criminal and dangerous activity will not be tolerated.

“Amr Hassan had established the largest syndicate of unsafe and illegal accommodation that we have identified in our area to date.”