New legal powers are to be used by the City Council to crack down on rogue landlords and agents.
Changes made to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 allow the Council to issue Civil Penalty notices up to a maximum fine of £30,000, which will take away the ill-gotten revenue obtained by landlords knowingly renting out unsafe or substandard accommodation.
Civil Penalties do not need a court hearing, making it easier for the Council to take swift and effective action. They will be used as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences, including the failure to comply with a housing improvement or overcrowding notice, not having the right licence for a property, not complying with a licensing condition, not complying with House in Multiple Occupation regulations or contravention of an overcrowding notice. Both landlords and letting agents can be held liable for offences.
Under another set of housing law changes, the City Council and tenants will also be able to apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) to claim back up to 12 months’ rent. RROs were previously only an option when landlords had failed to licence a property requiring a licence and tenants could only apply where the landlord had been prosecuted for the offence or the Council had already successfully applied for a RRO. RRO applications can be made for a wide range of offences including landlords illegally evicting or harassing people living in the property, using violence to secure entry and failure to comply with a housing improvement notice or prohibition order.
The Council can apply for a RRO for to recover any rent paid by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit to landlords and letting agents and tenants can submit a RRO application if they have paid the rent themselves. A specific power has also been written into the legislation allowing councils to help tenants apply for a RRO.
The new powers come into use as the Council prepares to seek the go-ahead from the Government to introduce a new licensing scheme for landlords aimed at improving housing standards in Nottingham’s private rented sector.
Councillor Toby Neal, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community and Customer Services, said: “Good landlords and letting agents have nothing to fear from these changes to the law. The City Council will now be able to tackle poor housing conditions in private rented housing more easily. The Civil Penalties process has a straight forward set of steps that allow landlords to make the required changes before fines are issued.
“Taken together with changes made to the Rent Repayment Order scheme, it means that the Council can take away the financial rewards gained by landlords and letting agents by putting substandard, dangerous or unacceptable private rented properties onto the market. For the City Council, these legal changes will provide additional resources to continue making sure that the city’s 36,000 private rented properties are fit for purpose.
“The Council’s use of these new powers along with our plans to introduce a new licensing scheme underline our commitment to ensuring people in Nottingham have access to decent quality private rented housing.”
The new legislation and the Civil Penalties process is now in use and all payments gained by the Council from Civil Penalties and RROs can legally be kept to be used on housing enforcement action to make poor quality private rented housing better.
Nottingham City Council want to reward responsible landlords who own good quality, well managed accommodation. Landlords can become accredited by applying to the DASH Landlord Accreditation scheme. Landlords with student tenants can register with Unipol student homes. Membership of DASH is FREE and enables landlords to use the ‘Nottingham Standard’ accreditation mark on all their properties in the city.