Buy to let investors in Bristol could soon face fines of up to £30,000 for letting dirty or substandard properties to tenants.
Bristol City Council has announced new plans to bypass the court process, enabling them to issue a legally binding Civil Penalty Notice in the post for criminal landlords, making it faster and easier for them to procure fines. Currently, rogue landlords can be fined up to £30,000 through the civil court, however the lengthy procedure and the sizeable cost to local authorities usually means that the maximum fine is not issued. The measures are intended to ‘level the playing field’ for tenants and reputable landlords.
Landlords need to ensure that their properties meet minimum health and safety standards, and must regularly test and maintain gas, electricity and water systems. They must check that the building is safe, secure and structurally sound. Legal responsibilities that landlords must fulfil include safely securing a tenant’s deposit, ensuring that the property is not overcrowded and to maintain their tenants’ privacy.
As well as receiving fines for failing to comply with housing laws, landlords can also be forced to repay up to 12 months’ worth of rent to the tenant or to the council if the tenant is in receipt of housing benefit. All of this money will be put towards housing projects.
The council is likely to approve changes to its penalty notice policy at a cabinet meeting today, to enable it to make use of the new powers.
A council report reads: ‘The new powers will be a deterrent against poor quality management in the sector, levelling the playing field for compliant landlords and agents and improving the living standards for tenants. The financial penalty will meet, in a fair and proportionate way, the objectives of punishment, deterrence and the removal of gain derived through the commission of the offence – it will not be cheaper to offend than to take the appropriate precautions.’