Northampton Borough Council is planning to introduce tough new measures to tackle criminal, rogue and irresponsible landlords.
Following the introduction of new powers for local authorities in April, as an alternative to prosecution, the borough council can now impose civil penalties of up to £30,000 per offence on landlords and letting agents who flout the law.
Until this year, a prosecution was the only option available to the council when dealing with serious housing offences committed by landlords.
However, the Government has now given councils more powers to deal with rogue landlords and improve housing standards in the private rented sector.
Councillor Stephen Hibbert, cabinet member for housing and wellbeing, said: “Northampton has some excellent landlords and letting agents, but there are people who knowingly rent out accommodation that is unlicensed, substandard or unsafe and this is wholly unacceptable.
“Of course, the maximum civil penalties will be reserved for the worst offences and the size of each penalty will be determined on a case by case basis.
"The important thing for us to consider, however, is whether the penalty is sufficient to remove any financial advantage that the offender may have gained by committing the offence – landlords and letting agents must never profit from putting their tenants at risk.
“What makes civil penalties a better option than prosecution is the fact that the borough council is able to use the income it receives from these penalties – and, indeed, the income it receives from rent repayment orders – to invest in our housing services, take action against more landlords, and improve the standard of private rented housing in Northampton.”
Northampton Borough Council is one of the first councils to adopt the changes and has developed a clear policy on how its new approach to enforcement will work.
Civil penalties can now be used to deal with a wide range of serious housing offences where the accommodation is unlicensed, substandard, overcrowded, badly managed or unsafe.
Penalties will be paid directly to the borough council and will be ring-fenced to help fund further housing enforcement activity.
Tenants of landlords who have civil penalties imposed on them are able to apply for a rent repayment order to reclaim up to 12 months’ rent and, where the rent has been met with the assistance of housing benefit, the borough council can seek to recover all or part of the housing benefit that was paid during that period.
Civil penalty enforcement will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, July 19 and if approved will be introduced in Northampton from Tuesday, August 1.