New powers which will give Liverpool City Council the ability to hit criminal landlords with fines of up to £30,000 have been approved by the cabinet.
The RLA is now reminding landlords to make sure their properties are compliant with all relevant rules and regulations and to check and double check their licensing conditions.
The council will now be able to use powers under the under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to impose civil penalties on private sector landlords where properties are found to be unsafe or dangerous, without having to resort to court action.
According to the city council, there were more than 3,500 complaints about properties last year – with the majority about the private rented sector.
Liverpool is the only city in the country to operate a landlord licensing scheme,which lays out standards that the private rented sector must meet, and gives tenants an expectation of their rights.
The cost of each five-year licence is £400 for first property and £350 for all others, with RLA landlords who have signed up for co-regulation paying just £200 per licence.
A further 1,300 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties are subject to the separate Mandatory Licensing Scheme and will also be covered.
RLA Chief Executive Andrew Goodacre said: “These are hefty penalties, so we would advise landlords to take a good look at their licensing conditions to ensure they are doing everything they need to do and that the homes they rent out re compliant.”
The new powers will enable the council to take action against breaches of landlord and HMO licences, plus for overcrowding and failing to comply with an improvement notice.
City-wide licensing scheme was introduced in April 2015 and between that date and June this year a total of 46 PRS homes in Liverpool were found to be breaking licensing conditions, with 131 breaches uncovered during random checks.
Councillor Frank Hont, Cabinet member for housing, said: “We have many good and responsible landlords in Liverpool, but the sad fact is that we have some who are happy to take the money and house people in appalling conditions.
“It is simply not right that people who are the poorest and most vulnerable in society are sometimes living in dangerous conditions with badly wired electrics, doors which aren’t fireproof and blocked escape routes.
“We are determined to send out a clear message that we will take action where we come across landlords breaking the law.
So far, the city has granted 38,000 landlord licences, but a further 6,500 unlicensed properties have been reported.
Of those unlicensed properties which have been inspected, around 78 percent have been found to be non-compliant, usually with significant issues in relation to fire, and in some cases they have been closed down.
There have been 19 successful prosecutions, 113 cautions issued and 41 formal written warnings. Another 670 cases are currently being considered for prosecution.
Recent enforcement cases brought by the city council’s landlord licensing team include:
- Closure of three bedsits on Lodge Lane in Toxteth in October 2017 which were a serious fire risk for tenants. A single house had been poorly converted into eight bedsits, all of which were unlicensed including broken fire doors with missing self-closers, damage to walls and ceilings within the bedsits and the means of escape, allowing for the fast passage of smoke and fire and exposed electric meters in communal areas increasing the risk of spread from fire.
- Closure of six privately rented flats on Grey Road in Walton in September 2017 due to smoke detectors not working, problems with fire doors and a dangerous electricity meter. The team found that the automatic fire detection providing protection to the common areas of the property was defective and completely disconnected from the electrical supply. It would not have provided any warning of a fire in the property, and threatened to prevent tenants escaping from the upper floors.
- A landlord whose tenant’s home on Clanfield Road in Croxteth was flooded with sewage from a blocked drain was found guilty by magistrates in September 2017 of managing a property without a compulsory licence, and fined more than £1,300.
- A landlord who rented out unlicensed properties and breached an Emergency Prohibition Order was fined more than £15,000 in September 2017. They pleaded guilty to 17 charges including operating unlicensed properties and breaching an Emergency Prohibition Order on two separate occasions. The means of escape was obstructed with domestic waste and furniture which would hinder swift exit in the event of a fire and there was no proper fire alarm system in place.
For more information about the RLA’s co-regulation scheme with Liverpool City Council click here.