Council eyes possible increase in private sector rental property enforcement

Published: Friday, 12 January 2018

Northampton Borough Council could be set to increase the size of its private sector housing enforcement team while cutting costs to the local council taxpayer.

In a new model championed by Government, the Council is able to impose fines of up to £30,000 per offence for a variety of offences committed by landlords and managing agents.

The aim of the new initiative, based on legislation contained within the Housing and Planning Act 2016, is to ensure private rented accommodation is safe, well managed and fit for purpose.

It would also allow the Council to tackle those who let houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) without the appropriate license to do so.

At present, the Council’s private sector housing enforcement team is too small to be able to deal with many substandard, unlicensed, badly managed privately rented homes.

Next week’s Cabinet will discuss the issue and decide whether to agree an expansion of the team in order that it can undertake increased housing enforcement, paid for from fines imposed on landlords and managing agents who are breaking the law.

Cllr Stephen Hibbert, Council Cabinet member for housing, said: “The Government has given local authorities the power to impose fines on landlords and managing agents, as an alternative to prosecution which can be more expensive and take a long time.

“Our housing enforcement team has already identified almost 500 properties which it knows or suspects are HMOs and should be licensed.

“The team is also aware of other substandard privately-rented accommodation in the borough which it doesn’t currently have enough time to tackle.

“An increase in staffing will enable more housing enforcement to be undertaken and this will, in turn, generate extra income to pay for the new posts.

“The Council’s plans are backed by a number of responsible landlords who already manage and maintain their properties to a good standard. In the long term, our aim is to ensure that all landlords are living up to their obligations.”

The new Government legislation also allows for an extension of rent repayment orders which can result in up to a year’s rent being returned to those who paid it. This could be the tenant if they have paid the rent, or the Council if the rent has been met through housing benefit.

If agreed at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 17 January, an additional 8 Officers will be recruited, with the cost being met from the extra income generated from civil penalties.