A ROGUE landlord could take nearly 15 years to clear a £40,000 council fine after a court agreed to let him pay weekly instalments.

Robert Crow, 67, of Devereux Road, Southend, received the hefty penalty in May for breaching 15 regulations governing homes of multiple occupation.

Crow was ordered back to Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday after failing to pay the fine.

He hit out at Southend Council, branding the authority a “force for evil” and claiming officers were trying to make him bankrupt.

Speaking to the Echo, he said he had “just 30p” in his pocket because the council had failed to pay housing benefit to his tenants.

He said: “I have had 28 days to pay a fine of £40,000. They said they could make me bankrupt or send me to prison.

“But what’s that going to do? It would make all my residents homeless. They say I’m a nasty, slum landlord, but I’m a humanitarian landlord.”

An interim agreement allowing Mr Crow to pay back just £50 a week has been granted ahead of a new magistrates’ hearing on Monday, August 1.

Crow was taken to court after council inspectors found tenants living in squalid conditions- some in the back yard under tarpaulin.

Although Crow admits to having 20 convictions for breaching housing regulations, he claims many of his tenants would otherwise be homeless.

He said: “Many of my tenants don’t even pay rent, I let them live here.

“I said to the magistrate that otherwise they would be suffering the indignities of homelessness.

“I have been tainted as this terrible, nasty rogue landlord, but I’m just trying to keep people alive.

“They said I was forcing people to live in squalor, but I’m taking them off the street.”

When the Echo asked Mr Crow how many of his tenants were staying for free, he said: “I won’t go in to that figure.”

Crow said council inspectors had used “obscure laws” to take him to court.

He added: “I’m a qualified electrical engineer. Their inspector said the electrics are faulty without even looking at them. That’s like a doctor telling you you’re going to die without even examining you.”

On Friday, Southend Council ordered Crow to remove furniture he had positioned on the pavement outside his cluttered front garden because it was attracting drunks.

He said: “That was only there because a pensioner asked me to put a chair there so she could have a rest on the way to the shops. It wasn’t my fault people from the pub came and sat there.”