West Suffolk councils now have new powers to combat rogue landlords, following decisions to adopt a civil sanctions policy taken by St Edmundsbury Council last night and Forest Heath Council tonight.
The powers became available under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, and give Local Housing Authorities the option of civil penalty fines as an alternative to taking a prosecution for the very worse landlords.
Currently the council deals with offences such as breach of an improvement notice, breach of a prohibition order, House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) management offences and operating an un-licenced HMO through prosecution.
Under the new policy, civil sanctions can be used for the more serious of these offences. The weighty sanctions include fines of up to £30,000, rent repayment orders and banning orders for non-compliance with certain Housing Act 2004 offences.
The policy was developed in consultation with local landlords and tenants.
Councillor Sara Mildmay White, lead member for Housing for Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils said: “We value the role played by private sector landlords, the vast majority of whom provide safe and healthy homes. Our local landlords used the consultation to show strong support for the civil measures introduced in this policy, aimed at protecting tenants from unhealthy and unsafe living conditions provided by rogue landlords for whom the current sanctions are not sufficient deterrent.”
Wherever possible, West Suffolk councils take a staged approach to enforcement to ensure solutions are initially sought through advice, co-operation and agreement.
Councillor Mildmay–White added: “Tenants have an important role to play in terms of knowing their rights and working with their landlords.