Sterling Properties

Proposals could show red card to rogue landlords

Posted on Sep 21st 2015

Rogue landlords and letting agents who are prosecuted will face higher fines, possible blacklisting from the industry and rent repayment orders under new proposals outlined by the government.

The proposals received wide press and media coverage, with one element of the plans – the eviction of illegal immigrants – attracting the most headlines. However, the rest of the ideas suggest that the government is considering the wider transformation of the private rented sector.

The government believes that rogue landlords are not concerned about the prospect of being fined and simply write off the cost of fines as a business expense.

Proposals in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation paper for ‘Tackling rogue landlords and improving the private sector’ include:

  • A blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents.
  • Minimum fines for repeat offences and rent repayment orders.
  • New powers for local authorities to seize private rentals.
  • A ‘fit and proper person’ test for landlords.
  • New civil penalties and fines against landlords for overcrowding, damp, disrepair and vermin infestations.

The proposals come amid growing political pressure over concerns about the housing conditions for some living in the private rented sector. The DCLG said 84% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, but that a small number of rogue landlords are causing “acute and complex problems”.

Recently, when the government gave £6.7m to some councils to inspect 40,000 privately rented properties, they found 3,000 were so poor that enforcement action or prosecution were required.

Magistrates are, in theory, able to impose unlimited fines against landlords but, in practice, the average is just £1,500, as the courts have to take into account the means of the offender.

Rent repayment orders were introduced in 2004 but few have been issued. The DCLG has suggested changing the law, which could mean that landlords who ignore local authority orders on such things as damp may be ordered to repay the rent from the whole tenancy period.

Prosecutions are rare, as few local authorities have the resources to take landlords to court. However, the prospect of civil penalties that could be issues without the need for costly and time consuming prosecutions through the courts could prove to have a wide reaching effect.

The DCLG has said that civil penalties could be issued against landlords and lettings agents who permit overcrowding and let properties fall into disrepair, as well as for poor sanitation, electrical faults, damp and vermin infestation. Fines could be as high as £5,000.

 

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