Wakefield Council has put out a strong warning to “slum” landlords in the town that it will take a tough stance with the implementation of its new powers.
Landlords who are found to be letting out sub-standard properties are being warned by the council that they will definitely face prosecution under the tough new stance being taken.
The council’s cabinet has agreed that rogue landlords will be prosecuted, and the council will use its powers to fine up to the £30,000 limit for each offence if landlords fail to repair, properly manage, or don’t improve their properties when required to do so.
Council leader Peter Box has said:
“We need to make it abundantly clear that these are not just words on paper, we’re going to enforce this.
“If anyone is exploiting tenants we will be on their case – we want this to be meaningful in terms of enforcement.”
The new powers come as a result of the passing of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which includes a package of measures to help councils tackle rogue landlords in the private rented sector (PRS).
These include allowing local authorities to apply for a banning order to prevent a particular landlord or letting agent from continuing to operate where they have committed certain serious housing offences.
It will create a national database of rogue landlords and letting agents, which will be maintained by local authorities.
As well as heavy fines for various offences, it will allow tenants or local authorities to apply for a rent repayment order where a landlord has committed certain offences (for example continuing to operate while subject to a banning order or ignoring an improvement notice). If successful the tenant (or the authority if the tenant was receiving universal credit) may be repaid up to a maximum of 12 months’ rent.
Given the ability to pursue landlords more vigorously, Wakefiled Council has committed itself to protecting tenants and reducing inequalities of housing conditions in the borough, and to reduce the hazards in homes that can cause ill health, such as dampness, cold, fire, and poor bathrooms and kitchens.
Non-payment of fines will be enforced through the county courts, says the Council.
Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for economic growth and regeneration, Councillor Denise Jeffery, has said:
“We have some great landlords in the district, but we have an awful lot that are letting anything happen.
“We are not building houses anymore and Wakefield District Housing is struggling so people are turning to private accommodation and some homes are just not up to standard.
“People come to us who are in despair, one person came to me and said they were having to live upstairs in their rented house because the downstairs was just not fit for purpose.
“It’s really important that we move forward to take a stand and say ‘we will not put up with this anymore’.”