Sentencing guidelines for Housing Act offences should be introduced as a priority to ensure consistent and appropriate fines, the Local Government Association has said.
In its response to the Department for Communities and Local Government technical paper Tackling rogue landlords and improving the private rental sector, the LGA also suggested that for more serious housing offences, the Housing Act could be amended to create an ‘either way offence’.
“This would bring in a new range of penalties from a fine to stronger penalties such as a community order or custodial sentence,” it argued.
The LGA submission added that:
- A list of persistent offenders would be useful to councils to support the issuing of licenses to landlords and other enforcement work. “However, the administrative burden and cost of compiling a list must not fall on councils.”
- The ‘fit and proper person’ test for landlords should be strengthened with a clear framework. “This will remove the uncertainty for councils and landlords as to what constitutes ‘fit and proper’ and provide a robust basis for accepting or refusing a license. The use of additional checks should be determined locally”;
- The Government should amend the notice period and compensation arrangements for Article 4 planning powers “so that councils can respond effectively to local concerns over concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)”;
- Councils should have a ‘power to direct’ surplus public land to improve the quality of the private rented sector through large-scale investment.
The LGA, whose submission can be viewed here, said its response was underpinned by the principle that for the private rented sector to succeed, it needed a local response, led by councils.
The Government’s technical paper, which was published on 3 August, can be viewed here. Measures highlighted by the DCLG included a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents, tougher penalties for the worst offenders, extending rent repayment orders and introducing fixed penalty notices.
The measures are due to be contained in the Immigration Bill.