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Housing and Planning Act 2016

As we have all seen in the recent years, there have been many changes in regulations within the Bristol Buy-to-Let market.

Now as of 6th April 2017, the introduction of the Housing and Planning Act brings in civil penalties and also extends grounds for rent repayment orders.

 

Civil Penalty Notices

The 2016 Act gives new powers to Local Authorities which will mean that the council can issue a Civil (Financial) Penalty to landlords as an alternative to prosecution.

 

Penalties can be used for the Following:

  • Failure to comply with an Improvement notice
  • Offence in relation to licensing
  • Offence of contravention of an overcrowding notice
  • Failure to comply with management regulations in respect of Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

 

Local councils can now issue landlords with fines up to £30,000, and the Act has issued guidance for councils to follow when deciding upon the level of penalty.

These are:

  • Severity of the offence
  • Culpability and track record of the offender
  • The harm caused to the tenant
  • Punishment of the offender
  • Deter the offender from repeating the offence
  • Deter others from committing similar offences
  • Remove any financial benefit the offender may have obtained because of committing the offence.

 

Rent Repayment Orders

These orders have existed where the landlord has been prosecuted for renting out an unlicensed property. However, they have now been extended to cover the following situations:

  • Failure to comply with an improvement notice
  • Failure to comply with a prohibition order
  • Breach of a banning order
  • Use of violence to secure entry to a property
  • Illegal eviction of the occupiers of the property

In these instances, the local authority or tenant can apply for a rent repayment order to reclaim rental housing benefit.

Database of Rogue Landlords and Banning Orders

A further two elements of the Housing and Planning Act will be introduced in October 2017. These are the launch of the National Database of Rogue Landlords and Property Agents, and the introduction of Banning Orders and management orders:

  • The Database of Rogue Landlords and Property Agents will be operated by the government, but its content shall be managed and maintained by local authorities. Only local authorities will have access, and can publish details in some cases;
  • Banning Orders will prohibit landlords or agents from letting their own properties or from any involvement in the letting and property management industry or associated companies. Local authorities will be able to apply to a tribunal for the making of an order following the commission of Banning order offences by landlords and agents. The order may then be made for a minimum period of 12 months and a maximum unlimited period.

Bristol City Council’s approach

Bristol’s local authority will be revising their enforcement policy to make it clear when they will choose to use these powers, and will provide an update on this at a later stage.

This is good news for compliant landlords, as they will have nothing to be worried about.

The council will also publish guidance on how the level of penalties will be decided.

My view as an expert Bristol letting agent

The private rented sector has been growing rapidly for more than over a decade now.  There are no signs of this slowing; and let’s face it: there are a lot of newbie buy-to-let investors getting into the market that do not have a clue about legislation when it comes to renting. Unfortunately, there is a handful of rogue landlords that make the majority good landlords look bad. Personally, I have nothing against the idea of upgrading the standards of property for letting purposes. I think that you are running a business and it is your responsibility as a responsible business owner to ensure the safety of your clients and customers.  My only concerns are for those landlords who are genuinely not aware of these changes and get caught out.

I also feel now is the time when landlords will have to rely more on reputable letting agents in their local areas to ensure they get the best advice and to maximise their returns on their investment.

Thank you for taking the time to read this news article. I hope that you have found it useful and relevant.

 

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