Following recent legislation that allows local authorities to tackle rogue landlords more effectively and efficiently, by imposing instant penalties, councils throughout England are publishing draft housing enforcement policies.
Under the new legislation coming into force rogue landlords can face penalties of up to £30,000 in a government initiative to radically improve standards in private rented housing.
The draft Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy documents – currently being produced by the local councils – accept that most of their landlords provide well managed and safe accommodation. But they note that that a small minority of rogues ignore the rules and do not provide safe accommodation.
One example, according to the Grantham Journal, South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) currently has 12,700 privately rented homes, representing about a one-fifth (20%) of the total housing stock. This is bang on the national average, and is twice the proportion it was in 2006.
This is rate of growth is indicative of the UK’s private rented sector (PRS) as a whole over that period, and shows its importance to most districts. In SKDC this is expected to grow under the council’s future targets to boost the district’s economy and population.
Acknowledging the need for change, a report prepared for a recent meeting of the council’s Communities and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee says it is to review its housing enforcement policy. This it says is due to the recent changes in legislation in which the government has given local authorities radical new powers to tackle unsafe rental housing conditions.
The policy document spells out the penalties which councils can now impose on “rogue” landlords in the appendices.
Up to now many of these “rogues” have be let off with desultory penalties, fines that could almost be treated as a business expense. In many cases the costs and time involved in bringing these bad landlords to court has not been cost effective.
Among the new measures are civil penalties for the “very worst offenders”. The general principle behind the initiative is that landlords should find it far cheaper and more profitable to provide good standard rental housing.
As well as imposing penalties, rent-repayment orders of up to 12 months can be issued, with “banning orders” to prevent landlords or letting agents operating for up to 12 months. Details of convicted rogue landlords and agents will also be entered into a national database where other councils, but not private tenants, can access the details.
Rental properties must now meet energy efficiency standards as well as existing safety standards. Mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) is to be extended to many more multi-occupied rental properties, with the three-story rule being removed.
Public consultations on these draft policies are now being carried out.
An example draft policy from St. Albans Council, see here. The appendices give a good summary of Legislative Powers in Relation to HMOs