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Rogue landlords ‘must face £30,000 minimum court fines’

Written by: Lana Clements
Rogue landlords should be fined a minimum of £30,000 for housing offences, and councils should have more freedom to introduce landlord licensing schemes, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Financial penalty guidelines for magistrates would improve standards in the private rental sector, the cross-party association said.

Councils can already slap private landlords with fines of up to £30,000 for offences such as failing to license a property.

But for the most serious offences which can be taken to court, such as fire safety breaches or substandard housing, there are no guidelines for magistrates sentencing.

At the moment, financial punishment is based on how much a landlord says they can afford rather than the seriousness of the offence or the harm caused to tenants.

The LGA said the fines should at least match the highest level of a civil penalty to raise.

Sub-standard homes

More than a quarter of privately rented homes failed to meet the decent homes standard in 2016, according to latest figures from the English Housing Survey.

And now councils want more room to implement licencing schemes.

Under the current system, local authorities have to apply to the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government for permission if a scheme covers more than 20% of an area or 20% of privately rented homes.

Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesman, said: “Councils want to work with landlords, not against them.

“But with more young people and families renting privately than ever before, we need to see reforms that will maintain and improve housing standards.

“A key deterrent to rogue landlords would be for the government to set common sentencing guidelines which delivers consistency across the courts.

“It is not right that the level of civil penalty could outweigh that which is handed out by magistrates.”

Tett noted that many councils are already tackling issues in the private rental sector by bringing in landlord licensing schemes but they were limited in how widely these can be introduced.

He added: “We need to see these rules relaxed and councils given more freedom and flexibility in establishing schemes.

“Landlord licensing schemes allow landlords to demonstrate they are responsible and adhere to ensuring homes are maintained to a high standard.

“It also protects and provides reassurance to tenants that they are living in a decent, safe and secure home.”

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