Rogue Fenland landlords face £30,000 fines in council crackdown
PUBLISHED: 10:25 28 May 2019
Rogue landlords in Fenland who break the law by running Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) without a licence are being warned to comply with the rules - or face fines of up to £30,000.
Fenland District Council is cracking down on unlicensed HMO landlords and letting agents using new powers designed to protect residents from substandard, overcrowded and dangerous living conditions.
Changes to HMO licensing were brought into force by the government in October last year. Previously, only dwellings of three or more storeys, housing five or more people, were required to be licensed.
However, legislative changes mean that any residential dwelling housing five or more persons - irrespective of the number of storeys - now requires a licence. New conditions on minimum room sizes were also introduced.
Councils can take further action against landlords and agents who fail to comply with their legal responsibilities and commit housing offences, with the power to impose civil penalty notices of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution.
Councils are able to retain the income from the fines which can be used to improve house conditions in the private rented sector.
Fenland's licensing enforcement team afforded landlords an informal grace period to prepare for the new HMO rules.
Advice and support relating to the legislative changes was provided at local landlord forum events where staff were able to inform landlords and agents of how the law would affect their businesses.
Now the team is stepping up enforcement action, carrying out checks and inspections on rental properties across the district to ensure landlords and agents are complying. Letters are also being sent to agents to remind their clients about their obligations.
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Members of the public and compliant landlords are also being encouraged to report landlords who they suspect are operating an HMO without a licence via an anonymous online 'Report a Rogue' form on the council's website.
Offences that could lead to a fine include:
- Failure to license Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) or failing to comply with licence conditions;
- Failure to comply with an improvement notice issued by the council, such as instructing a landlord to carry out remedial work;
- Contravening an overcrowding notice issued by the council when more individuals than the permitted number are occupying a habitable room or rooms within an HMO
Cllr Sam Hoy, Fenland District Council's portfolio holder for housing, said: "We gave landlords plenty of warning before the new law came into force last October, then we gave them extra time to help them get their heads around the new rules and submit their applications.
"Now our officers will investigate those who haven't licensed and, where they find a property that should be licensed but isn't, action will be taken.
"Fines will be imposed on landlords and agents who break the rules, without the cost of taking a case through the courts.
"We will continue to ensure standards are being met and won't hesitate to use powers against rogue landlords that continue to break the law in order to protect tenants from unsafe and poor housing conditions."
- To report a rogue trader, visit: www.fenland.gov.uk/article/13753/Report-a-HMO