Stricter measures for landlords to be enforced next month
By Andrea Wong, 31 March 2017
To stamp out any complacency amongst landlords about poor housing provision, the Government has confirmed that much stricter measures will come into effect as of 6th April. There will be a larger focus on Rent Repayment Orders (RROs) and new fixed penalty notices under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Although RROs have been around for a while under the Housing Act 2004 with regards to penalising landlords letting unlicensed properties, a new process is set to be enforced in the first week of April. The conditions of the regime will widen the grounds on which rent repayment orders can be obtained by local authorities. Tenants can also apply for RROs provided that the offence committed relates to the housing that the tenant was letting at the time.
Following the application of an RRO, a tribunal must assess whether the evidence given is clear enough to support claims. Offences include the failure to apply for a HMO license, breaching the license issued by local authorities and illegally evicting a tenant and failing to comply with HMO management regulations.
The introduction of fixed penalties next month is another measure set to be imposed to tackle bad landlords. It will essentially entail handing power over to Local Authorities, as they will be able to offer to levy a financial penalty of up to £30,000 for an offence as an alternative to prosecution under the Housing Act 2004. Penalties are issued for each individual offence so multiple conditions being breached such as having unsanitary bathrooms and failing to present electricity testing certificate could mean that overtime, landlords could be liable for even larger financial penalties.
Landlords have a period of 28 days to appeal the fixed penalty in which the council will issue a final decision, however, following this final notice, landlords can then turn to the first-tier tribunal for appeal.
There are already concerns over the new fixed penalty notice as we anticipate whether local authorities will be over-zealous with handing out fines to landlords as a way of making money, whilst it seems likely that some non-compliant landlords will continue to be found guilty without being prosecuted.
Most landlords are already fully aware of all the legalities and new regulations behind managing and letting a property, however, whether they will start comply remains to be seen. With these further measures being implemented next month and greater enforcement activity by the local authorities, we may see vast improvement amongst landlords managing their own property.
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