New powers mean fines, bans and RROs are on the cards

Bad news for rogue landlords, as local authorities are handed the power to impose civil penalties, rent repayment orders and banning orders

Local authorities have been handed powers to dish out fines of up to £30,000 in a bid to clamp down on rogue landlords.

The civil penalties system, which has been introduced under the Housing Act 2016, allows council the power to implement hefty fines for a range of offences including failure to comply with an improvement notice served by the council and breaches of HMO licensing, HMO management, selective licensing and overcrowding rules.

If a local authority believes there is reason to serve a penalty, the landlord in question will be sent a ‘notice of intent to serve a penalty’. Once they have received this, they will have 28 days to make representation regarding this.

Following this, the council will then make a decision whether or not to impose a financial penalty. The landlord can choose to pay this fine, or they have 28 days to appeal.

In addition to Civil Penalties, rent repayment order provisions have also been expanded, which allows local authorities or tenants to claim back up to twelve months’ rent.

In addition, the Government is expanding its Rent Repayment Order provisions, in order to enable local authorities or tenants to claim back up to 12 months rent.

Introduced in 2004, Rent Repayment Orders (RROs) were brought in as a way to penalised landlords who were managing or letting unlicensed properties. If a local authority prosecuted a landlord for presiding over an unlicensed property, tenants were able to make a claim under a RRO.

This has now changed with RROs available as a sanction for more offences, including:

  • Illegal eviction or harassment
  • Using violence in order to secure entry
  • Failure to comply with a housing improvement notice

Wronged tenants are now able to submit a claim for back-payment of rent even if the landlord has not been prosecuted.

Concerns have been reported about the schemes, with issues being raised regarding whether it could be used as a money making opportunity for councils, to the detriment of landlords.

On the flip side, there are also worries that some landlords who might otherwise have faced prosecution for their offences might simply be handed multiple fines instead, leaving serious ‘rogue landlords’ operating within the private rental sector.

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