ACTION against illegal developments is being speeded up in a bid to tackle the ever-growing backlist of enforcement cases.
Owners who breach planning regulations will now receive just one site visit and one letter before the council resorts to legal action.
The tougher approach follows complaints about 'prolonged correspondence and negotiation' by council officers, with cases taking up to three years to resolve.
In just eight months, between May 2012 and January this year, the number of ongoing enforcement cases across the borough rose from 880 to 1,285 - an increase of 46 per cent.
That is despite the council having received a £280,000 government grant last May to tacle the issue of 'beds in sheds' - money it spent on extra staff to identify and take action against rogue landlords.
Conservative group deputy leader Liz Mammatt welcomed moves to speed up the process, which she claimed followed calls from herself and party colleagues to stop 'pussyfooting' around.
Highlighting a recent case where enforcement officers had written to one owner six times without reply, she called on the council to adopt a 'zero-tolerance' approach like that taken in Brent.
The new measures will give owners just 28 days from receiving a letter to resolve the issue before the council seeks authority to issue an enforcement notice.
Should they continue to ignore the warning, they could end up in court and face a hefty fine.
Councillor Steve Curran, cabinet member for housing, accused offenders of dragging cases along with unfulfilled promises, leading to the 'significant backlog'.
"The new system will make it easier for officers to begin enforcement action and sends a strong signal we aren’t messing around – if you build something without the necessary planning permission, we will make you take it down," he said.
He accused Ms Mammatt of trying to score 'political points', despite cross-party support for the changes.
At last week's meeting, councillors agreed to issue enforcement notices over two outbuildings in Hounslow, both of which had been used as accommodation without permission.
Mr Curran said complaints about illegal buildings had shot up by 73 per cent in the last year thanks to the council's 'proactive' efforts to encourage reporting.
Council officers are writing to more than 100 letting agents warning them they could be prosecuted for advertising illegal backyard developments, notorious for their cramped and unsafe conditions.