From April 6th 2017, local councils have been given two new powers as part of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. This briefing will provide you with an overview of the new Civil Penalties and the significantly strengthened Rent Repayment Orders. If you would like more detailed guidance, please see our guides on each new enforcement action.
What are civil penalties?
Civil penalties are an alternative to prosecution for a variety of offences under the Housing Act 2004. Previously local authorities would have to bring a criminal prosecution against the landlord or letting agent, a time-consuming process. For any of the listed offences, local authorities will now be able to fine the landlord as an alternative to bringing a prosecution against them.
How much can a landlord be fined?
The local authority can now issue landlords with a civil penalty up to £30,000 per offence. There is no minimum penalty and there are a number of items that authorities have to consider when deciding on the level of the fine.
Which offences can a civil penalty be issued for?
Civil penalties can be issued by local authorities for several offences. These include:
- Failure to comply with an improvement notice
- Offences in relation to the licensing of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
- Offences in relation to selective licensing under part 3 of the Housing Act 2004
- Contravention of an overcrowding notice
- Failure to comply with management regulations for HMOs
What are rent repayment orders?
Rent repayment orders (RRO) are a means by which a tenant or local authority can seek to have up to 12 months of rent, Housing Benefit, or Universal Credit repaid, usually in addition to other fines.
Local authorities and tenants can now seek a rent repayment order against the landlord, where they can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the landlord is guilty of one of the qualifying offences.
Please note: For a Local Authority applying for the RRO the landlord does not have to have been charged or convicted.
What are the offences a rent repayment order may be made for?
From April 6th 2017, rent repayment orders will be available for the first 6 of the listed offences:
1. Violence for securing entry
2. Eviction or harassment of tenants
3. Failure to comply with improvement notice
4. Failure to comply with prohibition order etc
5. Control or management of unlicensed HMO
6. Control or management of unlicensed house
3. Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) Scheme Information Sharing
Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) schemes are required to provide specific information they hold on tenancies in England to local Housing Authorities who request the information. Only information which relates to properties in the geographic area of the Local Housing Authority which requests the information will be provided.
Local Housing Authorities must only use the data:
1. For a purpose connected with the exercise of their functions under Parts 1-4 of the Housing Act 2004 in relation to any premises (in general improving housing conditions, licencing of HMOs, selective licencing of other accommodation and management orders)
2. For the purpose of investigating whether an offence has been committed under any of those Parts in relation to any premises
The TDP information available to Local Housing Authorities is restricted to:
- Private Rented Sector (PRS) property addresses
- Addresses of the landlords letting these properties
- Addresses of letting agents managing PRS properties
- Number of deposits registered at the PRS property address
Private sector landlord names will not be shared.
An explanatory booklet has been published by the Government today and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/605056/Obtaining_and_using_Tenancy_Deposit_information.pdf