A COUPLE who turned a Bournemouth property into a block of five flats without permission have been ordered to repay tens of thousands of pounds.

Afseneh and Hosein Eslami, 57 and 63, transformed the house at 88 Alma Road, Winton into individual flats. Each of the properties was then rented to tenants.

Both admitted breaching an enforcement notice between November 2016 and February of this year at Bournemouth Crown Court in July. This month, they returned to the court for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing and sentence.

Duncan Milne, prosecuting, said the address in Alma Road was purchased in November 2004.

The couple - who live across the road - then converted the property without planning permission, which us not a criminal matter.

However, on February 11 2016, Bournemouth council officials served an enforcement notice requiring the address to be reverted into a single dwelling.

The Eslamis failure to comply constitutes criminality, the court heard.

“The development was considered unsympathetic and over-intensive,” Mr Milne said.

“[The Eslamis] made no appeal against the notice.”

As part of the enforcement notice, the couple were given six months to revert the address. In April of last year, the Eslamis submitted a retrospective planning application to turn the property into five flats. The application was refused.

In September 2016, council officials wrote to the defendants requesting to visit the address to confirm it had been turned back into one property.

The defendants failed to reply and later received another letter with notice that officials had the right to visit the address regardless.

Three weeks later, council officers visited the property and discovered all five flats remained.

Mr Milne said the Eslamis had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the enforcement notice, keeping the flats - and their tenants - until early this year.

Since that time, the couple have made further planning applications to turn the address into flats, all of which have so far been rejected.

Currently, the flats are vacant, it was said.

The total benefit received by the Eslamis during the period specified in the charge is £16,329.74, it was heard.

Gemma White, mitigating for Hosein Eslami, said he had been out of the country for much of the period.

He had employed an agent, Ali Reza Tajvar, to liaise with the council and secure planning permission, Ms White said.

“He finds it very unsettling that he finds himself before a court facing considerable financial consequences when he engaged the services of a professional,” she said.

“It has been a sobering and difficult experience for him.”

The council was awarded full costs. The Eslamis were issued with confiscation orders for the sum of £32,658.

Hosein Eslamsi was fined a further £10,000.

Nananka Randle, licensing team manager, said: “Following changes to a property in Winton which were made without permission, an enforcement notice was issued, which allowed six months for the house to be returned to normal. As this didn’t happen we then took formal actions against them for breach of the notice.”