Of the nine million private renters in England and Wales, the vast majority rent from responsible landlords. However, there are a small minority of rogue landlords who deliberately flout the law.
To refresh, as of 6 April 2017 rogue landlords who commit certain housing offences could be fined by the local authority up to £30,000 per offence as an alternative to prosecution through the courts. Such offences include failure to comply with an improvement notice, contravention of an overcrowding notice, and offences in relation to licensing of houses in multiple occupation, to name a few. The new powers aimed to raise the standard of accommodation in the private rented sector and give tenants protection from rogue landlords.
In addition to the fines, local authorities and tenants became able to apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) through the First-Tier Tribunal to reclaim up to 12 months of rent for issues including:
- Landlords illegally evicting or harassing people living in the property
- Landlords using violence to secure entry
- Failure to comply with a housing improvement notice or prohibition order
RROs were only previously an option when landlords were prosecuted for failing to licence a property which required one.
It has been six months since the introduction of these new powers but the extent and success of local authorities adopting these powers is unknown, primarily as there is no centralised monitoring system in place. While the powers came into force in April this year, many local authorities have yet to pass an internal policy in order to utilise the powers. If Devon is taken by way of example, Torbay Council only recently passed such a policy in September 2017, and the neighbouring councils of North Devon, East Devon, South Hams and Teignbridge have yet to do so. The reforms brought in under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 provided a sizeable overhaul of the means and methods tackling rogue landlords. However, so far it would seem that the take-up has been rather slow in favour of the more traditional route of prosecution.
For more information, please contact Alice Pickering see below for contact details.