Rogue landlords could be hit with penalities up to £30,000 in a new council crackdown

Private landlords who break the rules in Barnsley could be hit by penalties of up to £30,000 instead of being prosecuted under a new crackdown by the council, with those hit with two or more in the space of a year being added to a Government database of ‘rogue’ operators.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 2:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 2:38 pm
Barnsley town centre has many privately rented homes

The council’s ruling Cabinet has agreed to adopt the new system, which will be used as an alternative to criminal prosecutions and is intended to rob landlords of any financial gain from failing to comply with their legal obligations.

While prosecutions take place in public courts, penalty notices will attract no publicity but the council believes it is worth sacrificing that level of deterrent because the financial impact of using their own civil penalties could be much more punitive than fines issued by criminal courts.

Penalties will be used against those who fail to comply with the Housing Act of 2004 and will cover offences including failing to comply with improvement notices, contravening overcrowding notices and failing to comply with the management regulations around houses of multiple occupation, which are governed by different rules to homes rented out to individual tenants.

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A report to Cabinet members who approved the new policy stated: “Prosecution may be the most appropriate option where an offence is particularly serious or where the offender has previously committed similar offences in the past.

“A civil penalty of up to £30,000 can be imposed where a serious offence has been committed, or where the Council decide that a significant financial penalty (or penalties if there have been several breaches) rather than prosecution, is the most appropriate and effective course of action.

“Civil penalties will not be publicised in the public arena, unlike prosecution. Therefore, it is unlikely that civil penalties will offer a deterrent from peers or members of the public.

“However, they will offer a financial deterrent. Therefore deriding the landlord of any financial gain by not undertaking works required,” said the report.

Civil penalties attract the same burden of proof as criminal prosecutions and there is a right of appeal both against the penalty being imposed and the size of the sum involved.

Where they are not paid, the council will be able to pursue the landlord through the County Court, using bailiffs to recover the debt.