A tough new approach to stamping out the misery and distress caused by rogue landlords in the borough has been announced by Doncaster Council.
At their Cabinet meeting this week, councillors agreed to introduce civil penalties which will allow the local authority to issue fines of up to £30,000 to landlords who are found to be badly managing their properties.
In the worst cases, landlords could even find themselves facing multiple £30,000 fines as penalties can be issued for individual properties under a range of offences, including overcrowding, non-compliance with improvement orders and regulations relating to HMOs and selective licensing.
Doncaster Council has in fact had the authority to issue civil penalties since April last year when a change in government policy, the Housing and Planning Act 2016, gave local authorities the power to issue the penalties to private landlords who flout their health and safety obligations.
The penalties are much larger than the fines that can be issued by a Magistrates’ Court.
One of the first authorities to act was the London Borough of Newham, who just 20 days into the new legislation fined a landlord £5,000 for not having appropriate smoke alarms in a block of flats he was letting.
Tracie Croft, specialist in landlord law at Atherton Godfrey Solicitors, commented: “Whilst these problems are more likely to crop up with landlords that are new to the buy-to-let sector, it is very important that all landlords do not underestimate the powers the council has under these regulations. Previously, the council would have had to apply to the court and a judge would have ruled on an order; giving the landlord the opportunity to defend himself.
However, private landlords are now operating in a very different world where the local authority can issue the civil penalty and act without court approval.”
Councillor Chris McGuinness, said: “The vast majority of landlords in Doncaster manage their properties well but there are a number of rogue landlords and unscrupulous letting agents who flount their legal requirements for financial gain. We want to clamp down on this and imposing significantly higher financial penalties can act as a strong deterrent to those who think they can take advantage of their tenants.”
The income from the civil penalties will be kept by the council to help them to continue the enforcement work.
Author: Gail Harris