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New fines for landlords!

Thursday 09 March 2017

Over the past 12 months there has been so many regulatory changes and updates within the private rented sector, that I think one of the biggest changes has potentially gone unnoticed. I have seen barely any reference to this in the media or any of the well known landlord blog sites. I covered this topic briefly in a legislative update blog a few months ago and that's the introduction of fixed penalty fines. As of April 2017 a big change is taking place within your local environmental health department, your local officers will now have the power to issue a fixed penalty fine for non-compliance.

Let’s look at how it works at the moment...  As an example if the local authority receive a housing disrepair complaint about your property an officer would visit and carry out an assessment, often this would be a HHSRS inspection. Any identified defects would then be raised on you in form of a formal letter and in some cases a housing disrepair notice would be served on you. Let’s say that you ignored any notice served (I’m sure you wouldn’t as a responsible landlord) the officer would then look to prosecute you in court and it is likely you would receive a fine and in some cases other sanctions. The local authority would then typically seek to recover their costs from any fine imposed and then the remaining funds would typically be absorbed by the judicial system.

So what’s the big change? From April onwards your local enforcement officer will have the option to serve a fixed penalty fine on non compliant landlords as opposed to prosecuting a landlord in court. Any funds generated from the fixed penalty fines will be retained for the local housing department and must only be spent on rogue landlord initiatives or homelessness prevention initiatives. There will still be the same strict protocols in place that officers must follow but ultimately they are now in a position to punish non compliant landlords themselves! I imagine housing officers all over the country are very pleased with this new approach.

The sceptic in me says this seems like a shrewd move to bolster falling housing department budgets and I will be keen to see how aggressive this new power is deployed. There has also been a noticeable increase in local authorities introducing new licensing scheme which ultimately introduces further potential opportunities to issue fines! I think interesting times are ahead for the private rented sector and this represents a fundamental change  as to how it will be regulated. Watch this space!

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