New laws came into force on 6 April 2017 giving local authorities in England substantial new powers to penalise rogue landlords and agents.

The changes are being introduced under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which amends certain provisions of the Housing Act 2004. This legislation introduces new financial sanctions for non-compliance with various housing standards, property licensing and HMO management requirements.

Local authorities will now be able to impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000 for a range of housing offences, including:

  • Failure to comply with a housing improvement or overcrowding notice;
  • Failure to have the correct licence for a property that needs licensing; and
  • Failure to comply with the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) management regulations.

If the local authority has sufficient evidence of the offence, they have the power to award a civil penalty without having to attend court to prosecute the landlord or agent.

The local authority will first need to issue a notice of intent and invite representations. If unsatisfied with the response a final notice and financial penalty can then be issued, with the option to appeal to the First tier Property Tribunal. If the penalty is not paid, then the authority can make an application to the local county court for an order for payment.

Rent Repayment Orders

In a further change to housing legislation, the Rent Repayment Order (RRO) provisions under which local authorities and tenants can claim back up to 12 months rent can now be made for a much wider range of offences including:

  • Illegal eviction or harassment of occupiers;
  • Using violence to secure entry; and
  • Failure to comply with a housing improvement notice or prohibition order.

Local authorities can make an RRO application for any rent paid by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit whereas tenants can only submit an RRO application if they have paid the rent themselves.

From 6 April 2017, tenants can submit an RRO application without the local authority having first prosecuted the landlord. In this instance the tenant would need to prove the offence to the satisfaction of the First-tier Property Tribunal who would hear the case.

Unlike criminal prosecutions, any income received from civil penalties and RROs can be kept by the local authority and spent on housing enforcement activity.

If you would like to discuss this article or would like any further information, please contact Hayden Glynn or a member of the Property Litigation Team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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