Since the introduction of civil penalties for landlords many councils are stepping up their campaigns to bring rogue landlords to book.
As part of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the government introduced a range of new measures which are now available to councils in their dealings with rogue landlords. Civil penalties are an effective and far quicker alternative to court prosecutions, plus rent repayments orders, banning orders and the introduction of a database for rogue landlords and letting agents are all helping councils tackle the problem of rogue landlords and letting agents.
Oxford City Council has collected a total of £31,606 in penalties for housing offences from its first three cases since the introduction of new financial penalty powers to help crackdown on rogue landlords and improve safety for renters.
In the biggest of the three fines, a landlord who owns a rented property on Garsington Road received financial penalties totalling £25,298 for failing to licence it as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and uphold HMO management standards. Environmental Health staff from the City Council visited the property in April 2017 and found it occupied by four tenants.
The landlord was issued a financial penalty of £7,149 for failing to licence the property as well as an additional £18,149 for four separate fire safety failures. He had previously been convicted in 2015 of a related housing offence.
In the case involving the second largest fine, Council staff inspected a property in Jericho in April 2017 and found it to be an unlicensed HMO. After investigations, the Council gave the landlord a financial penalty of £5,073.92 for failing to renew his HMO licence. This was despite multiple letters and emails from the Council advising him to do so dating back to 2015.
The third landlord was given a financial penalty of £1,234 for renting out an HMO on Iffley Road whose licence had expired in 2014. All three landlords cannot be named for legal reasons.
The new financial penalty powers, which came into force in April 2017 under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, allow local authorities to impose penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences. Councils are able to retain all of the income and spend it on private sector housing enforcement.
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, said: “I’m pleased that the Council can now take swift action against landlords who break the rules, and do it without the costs of taking a case through the courts. We will continue to use these new powers to drive up standards in the private housing sector and protect tenants from unsafe homes and rogue landlords.”
The Council is able to set the civil penalties at a level to deter re-offending and remove any financial benefit from committing the offence.