Posts with tag: rogue landlords

Most councils are not issuing penalties against rogue landlords, NRLA finds

Published On: August 4, 2021 at 8:07 am

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Categories: Landlord News,Law News

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A new survey shows how few local authorities in England have issued civil penalties against rogue or criminal landlords in the last 3 years.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has found that between 2018/19 and 2020/21, only 130 local authorities in England out of 275 replying to the survey (47%) had issued any civil penalties. Most had used only a handful, with 71% of all civil penalties issued by just 7% of the local authorities.

This is despite councils in England having the option to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 for a range of housing offences since April 2017. This income can be re-invested by local authorities to help finance further enforcement against criminal operators who cause harm to tenants and give private renting a bad name, the NRLA points out.

As a result of the NRLA’s Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, it also found 40% of councils that had issued civil penalties had issued between just one and five over the past three years.

In total, fewer than 3,200 civil penalties were issued over the last three years by the local authorities responding to the survey. This is despite Ministers suggesting during the passage of the legislation to introduce them that there may be 10,500 rogue landlords in operation.

Chris Norris, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the NRLA, comments: “Our findings show that most councils are failing to use all the tools available to them to tackle rogue and criminal landlords.

“By failing to apply appropriate sanctions to punish wrongdoing, councils are weakening the principle of deterrence which underpins the civil penalties regime.

“We are calling on all councils to ensure they are making full and proper use of the powers they have to tackle those landlords who cause misery to tenants and bring the sector into disrepute.

“The Government’s plans to reform the private rented sector due later this year will mean nothing if changes are not properly enforced.”

Westminster launches online HMO checker to help combat rogue landlords

Published On: August 26, 2020 at 8:34 am

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Categories: Landlord News,Tenant News

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Westminster City Council has launched an online tool to check that HMOs are licensed to help raise standards in the private rental sector.

The checker is designed to help the council identify rogue landlords who are renting unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs). If tenants find they are living in an unlicensed HMO, they could be entitled to a rent repayment of up to 12 months’ rent.

A let property is an HMO is if there are three or more tenants from more than one household, sharing toilet, bathroom, and kitchen facilities. It can also include buildings divided into self-contained flat, Westminster City Council highlights.

If an HMO is let to five or more people from more than one household, the property will usually require a licence.

If they give consent, tenants who use the checker and find they could be living in an unlicensed property will be contacted by the council to discuss their case. If they believe they may be entitled to apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO), tenants will be put in contact with the Safer Renting organisation, who will guide them through the process of applying to the Property Tribunal for an RRO.

The checker has been created to support the council’s Housing Standards Taskforce which comprises trading standards, city inspectors and environmental health officers, and was set up to protect vulnerable residents by investigating landlords and letting agents who flout the rules or provide tenants with sub-standard homes.

Councillor Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing at Westminster City Council said: “Our goal is to make Westminster a place where high-quality housing is available to all. 

“A good home is at the centre of people’s lives and we hope this new online tool will help tenants to be aware of their rights and check whether their landlords are abiding by the rules. 

“We would encourage all landlords letting homes of multiple occupation to ensure they are being responsible and meeting their full legal obligations or face the consequences.”

More information about the taskforce can be found at: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/housing-standards-taskforce.

If you would like to know more about HMOs, check out this guide on specialist property insurance provider Just Landlords’ blog.

Landlord fined £2k after ignoring repair requests 

Published On: January 22, 2020 at 10:44 am

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Bridligton, Yorkshire; a landlord has been fined in excess of £2,000 after failing to comply with several improvement notices to his property. 

The landlord, who has been named as 54 year-old David Christlow, of Prospect Street in Bridlington, was ordered to pay a £2,000 fine; a victim surcharge of £170, and the repair costs of £2,282.93. 

Christlow appeared at Beverley Magistrates’ Court on January 8th, where he pleaded guilty to two offences of failing to comply with improvement notices served under Section 11 and 12 of the Housing Act 2004.

The issues were first brought to the landlord’s attention in September 2018, when a tenant notified him. Christlow acknowledged the state of disrepair and committed to fixing the problems, but chose to do nothing in the end.

The 54 year-old corresponded with enforcement officers in January 2019, again, committing to solve the issues, but by the time of an inspection in April 2019, he had still made no effort to attempt repairs. 

The inspection noted issues such as a poorly fitted front door, loose electrical sockets and switches in the kitchen and landing, the electric heating element in the bathroom airing cupboard had come away from the wall and a lack of handrails on the staircase.

Smoke detectors were in places which meant they could not be maintained, and smoke seals were not fitted on fire doors in the kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedrooms.

A week after the inspection, the tenant was contacted and it was revealed that this rogue landlord had STILL not begun any of the promised work, leading to the two aforementioned improvement notices to be served. 

The notices expired in June 2019, upon which time a second inspection revealed that none of the work had been completed. 

By September 2019, a YEAR after the issues were originally brought to Christlow’s attention by his tenant, officers found that a new front door had been fitted, but none of the other issues had been resolved. 

Most local authorities have their own guidelines on what is considered a reasonable amount of time for repairs to be completed, but Christlow’s actions were shown to be long beyond what anybody would consider ‘reasonable’. This case highlights a need for stronger and clearer guidelines on landlords’ responsibilities in situations such as this.

Chris Dunnachie, private sector housing manager at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, commented: “Officers from the private sector housing team had advised Christlow that he needed to make essential repairs to the property but he chose to ignore those requests which resulted in the enforcement notice, which he failed to act upon.

“This is a timely reminder to landlords of their responsibilities and ensuring properties are maintained and kept in good order to prevent potential injury to tenants and their families and ultimately prevent the necessity of enforcement action.”

Extra funding provided to local councils to help enforce legislation

Published On: January 20, 2020 at 10:29 am

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Local authorities have received several funding boosts over the last few years, allowing them to become better equipped to tackle the enforcement of lettings legislation, says PayProp.

The lettings payment automation provider believes that this increase in funds to train more enforcement officers could lead to more penalties being issued. This includes banning orders for the worst offenders. Since the introduction of such orders, they have so far been used sparingly.

Latest funding could boost compliance

It was earlier this month that an additional £4 million was announced for 100 local councils to help combat rogue landlords and letting agencies. This will include training over 100 enforcement officers across Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as creating a Special Operations Unit in Northampton.

The funding will also be used to help vulnerable young tenants in Thurrock, Essex, and to trial new technology that will identify particularly cold homes in Greenwich.

“The standout measure here is the money being used to train over 100 new enforcement officers in the North of England,” says Neil Cobbold, Chief Operating Officer of PayProp UK.

“One of the biggest issues in the rental sector in recent years is the lack of enforcement of a rising number of regulations aimed at improving industry standards.

“More enforcement officers across the country would significantly help to increase compliance, meeting the government’s goal of raising standards and discouraging rogue operators,” he says.

Over £10m committed to rogue landlord funds in the past year

The government has committed to providing over £10m in local authority funding over the last 12 months to combat criminal landlords and agencies.

On top of the funding boost received this month, almost £2.4m was provided to 50 local councils in January 2019. A further £3.8m was issued in November last year.

“Industry insiders have often criticised the government for not providing enough funding for enforcement, but an increased amount has been pledged in the last 12 months,” says Cobbold.

“If used properly this funding could benefit letting agencies by ridding the industry of those intent on breaking the law and helping to improve its reputation with the public.”

Could more banning orders be issued in 2020?

 Cobbold has suggested that if this additional funding from the Government is used to enforce legislation more effectively, one main result could be an increase in the number of penalties issued.

Banning orders were introduced in April 2018, but it wasn’t until September 2019 that the first one was issued. Only a few more have been handed out since.

Introduced as part of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and alongside the database of rogue landlords and property agents, banning orders are ordered by a First-Tier Tribunal and follow local housing authority application.

Receiving a banning order is a criminal offence and prohibits landlords or agents from letting housing in England and engaging in English letting agency or property management work.

“Banning orders are only reserved for the very worst offenders. We may see a number of penalty options used, but local authorities that do increase enforcement will show that they are serious about raising industry standards,” says Cobbold.

“With further legislation changes expected throughout this year, it’s important that the authorities do everything they can with the additional funding to ensure widespread compliance,” he concludes.

Funding to tackle criminal landlords welcomed but nowhere near enough

Published On: January 6, 2020 at 10:06 am

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The provision of Government funding to root out criminal landlords may be welcome but is it enough to tackle the scale of the problem? The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) does not think so.

With ministers confirming yesterday that more than 100 local authorities in England will share £4 million in new funding, the Government is expecting this to help “crackdown on criminal landlords”.

This focus on rooting them out has been welcomed by the RLA, but the organisation warns that the amount is nowhere near enough to tackle the crooks.

For some time now it has been raised to Ministers by the RLA that proper, multi-year funding needs to be provided for councils. This will enable them to plan long-term strategies to permanently root out criminal landlords who are bringing the sector into disrepute. This must involve sufficient funds to boost the number and skills of Environmental Health Officers.

David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association, has commented: “We welcome the Government’s focus on rooting out criminal landlords. 

“For too long the debate has been driven by ideological calls for more regulation of the sector. What is needed is better enforcement of the powers already available to tackle the minority who bring the sector into disrepute.

“Today’s (Thursday 2nd January 2020) funding though is nowhere near enough. Instead of offering inadequate and sporadic pots of money, it is critical that the Government provides proper, multi-year funding to enable councils to plan and prepare workable strategies to find the criminal landlords. 

“This should be supported by councils having the political will to prioritise enforcement against the crooks rather than tying good landlords up in licensing schemes which do nothing to protect tenants.”

Expectations for changes to the private rental sector in 2020

As we enter a new year (and a new decade!), specialist landlord insurance provider Just Landlords has collated a list of the biggest changes it expects to see for the private rental sector (PRS).

Here’s a summary of what is likely to be just around the corner for landlords, letting agents and tenants:

  1. Section 21 – Abolishing this as an option for landlords looking to evict their tenants will mean big reforms to the Housing Act.
  2. EPC law – As of 1st April, landlords will need to ensure the properties of all private tenancy lets have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of E or higher.
  3. Grenfell Tower – All building types are under scrutiny, including those in the PRS, to make sure we’re doing all we can to avoid such a devastating event happening again.
  4. Rent controls – There has been a mixed reaction to this suggestion, so we’ll see if it comes up again in 2020.
  5. Mandatory three-year tenancies – The initial proposal was not well-received, but will we hear more on the matter? It has to be said that some would benefit from the option of a three-year contract.
  6. Rogue landlord database – Will tenants and prospective tenants finally be able to access this database to help avoid falling victim to rogue landlords?
  7. Landlord taxes – Already an issue driving many from the market, will our current Conservative government lessen the burden or increase it?
  8. Brexit – Are you as fed up with this portmanteau as we are? We’re Brired of Brearing about it… The official deadline is 31st January, so 2020 will be the first year we feel the effects of whatever decision is made.
  9.  Lifetime Rental Deposits – This one could really make a difference to the ease of renting for all involved. We hope the Government turns its attention to this sooner rather than later!

Em Morley, spokesperson for Just Landlords, comments: “We say these are our expectations, rather than predictions, as this is the least we’re expecting from the Government and local authorities.

“Progress is vital for the sector, as it’s about more than the businesses of landlords and letting agents. It’s also about the supply of safe, comfortable and affordable housing needed in the UK.”

Read Just Landlords’ full article on their blog.