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Council chiefs have suggested that rogue landlords who commit serious housing offences should be fined a minimum of £30,000.
Currently, local authorities are able to enforce fines of up to £30,000 for offences by private landlords. Such offences can range from the failure to properly license a property to not complying with an improvement notice.
At this current time, there are no common sentencing guidelines for Magistrates when it comes to housing offences with decisions based upon how much a landlord is able to afford rather than the gravity of the offence.
The Local Government Association (LGA) wishes to change this, arguing that the most serious cases, such as fire safety breaches, should lead to fines that match the highest level of a civil penalty. This will provide consistency whilst also raising standards in the buy to let sector.
Councillor Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesman commented: ‘The majority of landlords are decent, responsible law-abiding citizens who do a great job in making sure their tenants are living in safe and quality housing. Unfortunately, there is a minority of rogue landlords who give those good landlords a bad name. Councils want to work with landlords, not against them. But with more young people and families renting privately than ever before, we need to see reforms that will maintain and improve housing standards. A key deterrent to rogue landlords would be for the Government to set common sentencing guidelines which delivers consistency across the courts. It is not right that the level of civil penalty could outweigh that which is handed out by magistrates.’
Councillor Tett is also advocating for increased freedoms to introduce private housing licensing schemes to improve private rental standards for tenants. Presently, local authorities have to apply to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for permission to introduce schemes if they cover more than 20 per cent of an area or 20 per cent of privately rented homes.
Councillor Tett explained: ‘Many councils are already tackling issues in the private rental sector by bringing in landlord licensing schemes. But they are limited in how widely these can be introduced. We need to see these rules relaxed and councils given more freedom and flexibility in establishing schemes. Landlord licensing schemes allow landlords to demonstrate that they are responsible and adhere to ensuring homes are maintained to a high standard. It also protects and provides reassurance to tenants that they are living in a decent, safe and secure home.’