Northampton Borough Council Considers Increasing Housing Enforcement

Northampton Borough Council could impose fines of up to £30,000 on rogue landlords and letting agents for misconduct in future.

Northampton Borough Council is planning to increase its housing enforcement team in order to better crack down on unsafe privately rented accommodation. The Borough Council has confirmed that the new fines are set to be imposed to ensure that privately rented accommodation is ‘safe, well managed and fit for purpose.’

The council also met last night to decide on whether to enforce a ‘section 4’ rule which would mean that landlords are required to obtain planning permission before converting family homes into houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

A HMO is defined as accommodation with over three separate tenants. HMOs have received poor publicity from residents groups and communities as they occupy family homes. There have also been complaints that they lead to rubbish strewn streets and excessive amounts of cars.

Northampton borough council claims that their current private sector hosing enforcement team is ‘too small’ to be able to deal with the vast numbers of substandard, unlicensed and badly managed privately rented homes.

Council cabinet member for housing, Councillor Stephen Hibbert, said: ‘The Government has given local authorities the power to impose fines on landlords and managing agents, as an alternative to prosecution which can be more expensive and take a long time. Our housing enforcement team has already identified almost 500 properties which it knows or suspects are HMOs and should be licensed. The team is also aware of other substandard privately-rented accommodation in the borough which it doesn’t currently have enough time to tackle.’

Additionally, new government legislation also allows for an extension of rent repayment orders. This could result in up to a year’s rent being returned to those who paid it, be that the tenant or the council in the case of those whose rent is met by housing benefit. This is also likely to shake up the buy to let sector in Northampton.

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