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Crackdown on landlords providing unsafe, overcrowded homes

The government is to extend mandatory licensing to smaller and medium-sized properties in an effort to crack down on rogue landlords who exploit vulnerable tenants in unsafe and overcrowded accommodation.

Landlords who fail to obtain a licence will face a potentially unlimited fine.

The proposals are contained in a new discussion paper published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The aim is to make it easier for local authorities to raise standards in houses used as shared homes. The new measures include:

  • making the rules apply to more shared homes, including those that are 1-2 storeys; current rules apply to homes of 3 storeys
  • ensuring rules apply to poorly converted blocks of flats, and flats above and below shops, which are often exempt
  • setting a minimum size of rooms in line with existing overcrowding standards.

Ministers stress that the vast majority of landlords comply with the law and provide a good service. However, they say some unscrupulous owners are exploiting the most vulnerable people in society by providing illegal and unsafe homes.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “It is simply unacceptable that people are living in cramped, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords who are more interested in a quick profit than the safety or welfare of their tenants.

“The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working, benefit fraud, and illegal immigration by creating a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people’s health as well as communities.”

The measures are part of an ongoing programme designed to improve standards in shared accommodation.

New rules set out in the Housing Bill will enable local authorities to take strong action against rogue landlords and letting agents. They include:

  • creating a database of rogue landlords and letting agents, helping councils to focus their enforcement action on where it is most needed, and keeping track of those who have been convicted of housing offences
  • seeking banning orders for the most prolific and serious offenders
  • issuing civil penalty notices of up to £5,000 for certain breaches of housing legislation, ring-fencing resources for housing compliance activity
  • extending rent repayment orders to cover situations where a tenant has been illegally evicted or the landlord has failed to rectify a serious health and safety hazard in the property, and allowing local authorities to retain that money for housing purposes where the rent was paid through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit
  • applying a more stringent ‘fit and proper’ person test for landlords letting out licensed properties, such as houses in multiple occupation, to help ensure that they have the appropriate skills to manage such properties and do not pose a risk to the health and safety of their tenants.

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of commercial property law.