What does the change in the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy mean for landlords?

What does the change in the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy mean for landlords?

22nd February 2021

Change in Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy nationwide sees planned increase of frequency of fines reaching £30,000.

On Tuesday 16th February 2021, HM Government approved an updated Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy. This new policy has increased the power of councils nationwide and will allow local councils to issue civil penalties (specifically the higher banded fines) for a wider range of breaches. In 2017, under Section 126 and Schedule 9 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 it became possible for enforcement of the Housing Act 2004 to carry fines of up to £30,000. These fines were to be imposed as an alternative to prosecution for certain specified offences.

The new enforcement policy has increased the scenarios that councils will look to impose such large fines, including against landlords who have acted in a manner deemed as “irresponsible” against their tenants or landlords that have failed to maintain legal standards for housing. This will be used in conjunction with the powers already available to the council including the system of improvement notices and rent repayment orders.

The Policy previously stated that local councils had the power to issue a civil penalty (a fine) in the following circumstances:

  • Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice (section 30 of the Housing Act 2004);
  • Offences in relation to licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (section 72 of the  Housing Act 2004);
  • Offences in relation to licensing of houses under Part 3 of the Act (section 95 of the Housing Act 2004);
  • Offences of contravention of an overcrowding notice (section 139 of the Housing Act 2004);
  • Failure to comply with management regulations in respect of Houses in Multiple Occupation (section 234 of the Housing Act 2004); and
  • Breach of a banning order (section 21 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016)

This new policy will increase the use of fines to help tackle problems with “rogue landlords”.

If a fine is not paid, a council may look to issue proceedings to enforce the fine against the landlord.

Previously, in order to receive a fine of £30,000 the errant landlord will need to have acted in a manner that has high culpability and causes a high level of harm (the figure of £30,000 being the upper limit of the banding) this new policy seeks to increase the applicability of the criteria.

Of course, councils will also look at both mitigating and aggravating factors to ensure the fine they issue is proportionate as well as consulting their criteria as to whether a fine, caution or prosecution is appropriate.

Now more than ever it is important that landlords are compliant with the law and our team at Brindley Twist Tafft & James can assist you in assessing your position and ensuring you keep compliant with your obligations. As well as situations where you may find yourself in a dispute situation we can help landlords with:

  • Reviewing your tenancy agreements to ensure they are working for you.
  • Reviewing your property arrangements (how they can be best managed and set up).
  • Providing expert advice for how to be a compliant landlord for those stepping into the business of becoming a landlord. Will you want to engage an Agent to manage?
  • Drafting of tenancy agreements and correspondence to your tenants.
  • Our fixed fee service can provide you with assistance in cases where tenants need to be served notice to leave the property (and help recover any rent owed/overdue).

Not only are we able to assist with your residential property portfolios but also our experienced team of commercial property experts can help those with commercial properties as part of their portfolios (both residential and non residential). We have a broad range of experience in our Commercial property and landlord-tenant teams. With excellent feedback from our clients, we offer our clients across the country (and in some cases, ones based abroad) a strong, effective service.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you think we can help you.