Landlords can be issued with civil penalty notices for housing breaches as of April 6th the government has now confirmed.
Local authorities can implement fines of up to £30,000 for a range of offences, under the Housing Act 2004, including failing to comply with an improvement notice served by the council, and breaches of HMO licensing, HMO management, selective licensing and overcrowding rules.
These landlords will be given notice of intent to serve penalty and 28 days to ‘make representation’. The council then makes the decision as to whether to impose a penalty, after which the landlord has 28 days to pay or appeal to the first tier tribunal
The RLA has welcomed the introduction of the civil penalties system. However, it has concerns over how it will operate.
The two main concerns are that council will be over-zealous when it comes to handing out notices and fining landlords – as an easy way of making money.
At the opposite end of the scale there are concerns that landlords guilty of serious criminal behaviour could be served with continual fines when they should be prosecuted.
Alongside the introduction of the new civil penalties Rent Repayment Orders will be extended from the same date.
These orders – which already exist – allow a tenant or local authority to reclaim rent or housing benefit where a landlord rents out an unlicensed property such as a HMO. Under the new Government plans this will be extended to cover illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with a statutory notice.
The introduction of civil penalties and the extension of Rent Repayment Orders are just the first of a series of steps designed to tackle criminal landlords.
In October banning orders will be introduced – which could see landlords barred from letting or managing a property indefinitely.
The government has yet to issue official guidance on how the scheme will be implemented by local authorities, despite the introduction date being just three weeks away.
The RLA will be compiling a comprehensive guide once this information has been published.