New civil penalties herald simpler enforcement of housing standards
Published date: 20 June 2019
Published date: 20 June 2019
Landlords could now face civil, rather than criminal, penalties of up to £30,000 for breaking key housing regulations in Redditch, under a new enforcement regime introduced by Redditch Borough Council following changes to UK housing legislation.
Under the new regime breaking certain specific regulations, like complying with an official Improvement Notice, could now lead to hefty fines without the need for criminal proceedings.
Failing to properly register a property let to multiple households, known as a ‘House of Multiple Occupation’ or HMO, is another regulatory requirement now enforceable by fines.
Prosecution remains an option for the most serious offenders.
The move was enabled by changes to the law under the Housing & Planning Act 2016, and was approved by Executive Committee members at their meeting last week (Tuesday June 11).
Cllr Craig Warhurst, Redditch Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “There are roughly four thousand private rented properties in Redditch, in most cases managed by great landlords. The council fully supports these responsible landlords and will continue to work with them to drive up standards in the sector.
“However in the small number of situations where unscrupulous landlords knowingly fail to ensure that their properties are free from significant hazards, the council now have much stronger powers to drive resolution and compliance. These landlords who refuse to co-operate with the Private Sector Housing Officers will be dealt with swiftly through the new powers in place. The council can now consider issuing fines and will implement these penalties where landlords fail to rectify issues. The rules haven’t changed, but they have got simpler to enforce.”
Executive Committee members also agreed a ‘penalty matrix’ that publicly sets out the council’s approach to the civil penalties, which sees fines levied according to the degree of non-compliance and a range of other factors.
The change has been in the pipeline for some time and follows extensive national and local consultation and discussions, including with other local councils in a bid to create consistency in the way the new penalties will be applied in the region, and at meetings of the borough council’s Private Landlords Forum.
Cllr Matt Dormer, Leader of Redditch Borough Council, added: "This change reflects a new attitude that people are going to see from this council when it comes to enforcing people's rights and safety. I want to add civil penalties like this to our local enforcement toolkits across the board and wherever possible.
"Criminal prosecutions have their place in the event of serious regulatory breaches, but in many other cases it can be like trying to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We want the option of faster, simpler tools to enforce the rules that not only help keep people safe, but that keep the playing field level and fair for everyone out there trying to make an honest living."