Two Wellingborough landlords have been served with civil penalty notices for operating unlicensed Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in the borough. One notice was for £6,000 and the other for £8,250.
Details of the individuals and properties cannot be disclosed as the penalties are civil sanctions, not criminal, however it can be confirmed that both landlords were operating licensable HMOs without a licence. Officers from the council’s Private Sector Housing team investigated and found sufficient evidence to pursue action against both landlords.
Civil penalties of up to £30,000 may be imposed by the local authority for certain housing offences including not licensing a licensable HMO, failure to comply with an improvement or overcrowding notice and failure to comply with HMO management regulations. It is important that all rented properties are properly managed and maintained in suitable and safe condition for tenants, and civil penalties are an effective way of local authorities being able to hold landlords to account without the need to resort to the criminal justice system. The same standards apply to investigations and thresholds for action, but the local authority can use civil penalties as an alternative to prosecution. Any income the council receives from civil penalties can be used to reinvest in the council’s private sector housing service. The council has a policy which sets out how any penalty is calculated.
From October 2018 mandatory HMO licencing requirements changed. Previously only larger HMOs of three or more storeys and occupied by five or more persons forming at least two separate households were required to be licensed. Mandatory licensing of HMOs in England now includes many smaller properties housing five or more people in two or more separate households, regardless of the number of storeys.
Councillor Graham Lawman, Chairman of the Council’s Services Committee, said: “This is an excellent result and highlights the work the council’s Private Sector Housing team do to monitor and maintain compliance and standards in the private rented sector.
“Council officers usually try to educate and work with landlords to secure compliance informally, but, this should send a strong message to landlords that should they fail to act on officers’ advice or fail to comply with statutory obligations, officers will not hesitate to use the wide range of legal tools available to them.”
The team works with landlords providing informal advice both directly and through other forums such as landlord events, in association with partner organisations.
Tenants with concerns over the condition of a rented property or landlords seeking advice about setting up or managing HMO’s are encouraged to contact the council’s Private Sector Housing team by telephoning (01933) 229777 Option 3, Option 1 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org