Oxford City Council has collected a total of £31,606 in penalties for housing offences from its first three cases since the introduction of new financial penalty powers to help crackdown on rogue landlords and improve safety for renters.
In the biggest of the three fines, a landlord who owns a rented property on Garsington Road received financial penalties totalling £25,298 for failing to licence it as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and uphold HMO management standards. Environmental Health staff from the City Council visited the property in April 2017 and found it occupied by four tenants.
The landlord was issued a financial penalty of £7,149 for failing to licence the property as well as an additional £18,149 for four separate fire safety failures. He had previously been convicted in 2015 of a related housing offence.
In the case involving the second largest fine, Council staff inspected a property in Jericho in April 2017 and found it to be an unlicensed HMO. After investigations, the Council gave the landlord a financial penalty of £5,073.92 for failing to renew his HMO licence. This was despite multiple letters and emails from the Council advising him to do so dating back to 2015.
The third landlord was given a financial penalty of £1,234 for renting out an HMO on Iffley Road whose licence had expired in 2014. All three landlords cannot be named for legal reasons.
The new financial penalty powers, which came into force in April 2017 under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, allow local authorities to impose penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences. Councils are able to retain all of the income and spend it on private sector housing enforcement.
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services, said: “I’m pleased that the Council can now take swift action against landlords who break the rules, and do it without the costs of taking a case through the courts. We will continue to use these new powers to drive up standards in the private housing sector and protect tenants from unsafe homes and rogue landlords.”
The Council is able to set the civil penalties at a level to deter re-offending and remove any financial benefit from committing the offence.
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Whopping fine should ‘serve as a warning to any other rogue landlords’
A rogue landlord in Newmarket who exposed tenants to ‘significant risk’ has been ordered to pay almost £33,000 after being found guilty in court.
Russell Wayne Price, 50, of Lisburn Road, Newmarket, was found guilty of 15 charges following prosecution by Forest Heath District Council.
Some 13 charges, which related to two Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Lisburn Road, Newmarket, were under the Housing Act 2004, with the other two charges related to the landlord’s failure to provide information about the properties when requested.
Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard that both properties, which were inspected by housing officers a year ago, were subject to Prohibition Orders served in 2008 and 2010, banning them from being used as HMOs.
It was discovered that the properties featured several safety concerns, including a lack of sufficient fire detection and escape routes, a lack of gas or electrical safety certificates, and a loose electrical socket.
District Judge Timothy King, who ordered Price to pay charges, council costs and fines totalling £32,980, said: “There was a significant risk of harm to individuals.”
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Seventy-five civil penalties totalling £40,100 were issued under the Right To Rent scheme from July to September.
The latest quarterly tally takes the number of fines since the start of last year to 311, with a total value of just over £200,000.
Under Right To Rent, landlords or householders must establish that tenants or lodgers are in the country legally by taking copies of documents such as passports or identity cards.
Failure to do so can mean fines of up to £3,000 a tenant. The initiative was first trialled in the West Midlands before being introduced across England from February 2016.
“These latest statistics make clear that where illegal migrants are found to be renting property, we are taking action” Home Office spokeswoman
Press Association analysis of Home Office data released last week shows a rise in the number of fines since the nationwide roll-out.
Between January and September this year, 209 penalties were issued – more than twice the 102 handed out in 2016. The latest three-month total of 75 compares with 31 registered in the equivalent period last year.
Campaigners claim the clampdown fuels discrimination and argue there is little evidence it is making an impact in the Government’s efforts to create a “hostile environment” for illegal migrants.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Right To Rent scheme is just one of the ways in which we are making it more difficult for those with no right to be in the UK to live and work here.
“These latest statistics make clear that where illegal migrants are found to be renting property, we are taking action.
“We regularly meet with representatives from the private rented sector such as local authorities, landlords and housing charities, to discuss and monitor the scheme.
“This ensures that levels of awareness are good and that checks are being routinely carried out.”
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