Penalties for breaking housing law
Where we establish a landlord or agent has broken the law, we have a range of penalties available:
We can impose civil penalties of up to £30,000 for certain housing offences. We use this money to fund further enforcement of housing standards. Penalties are determined in accordance with our Civil Penalties Policy and the Government’s Civil Penalty Guidance.
Rent Repayment Orders
Tenants can claim back all of the rent paid over the last year when certain offences were being committed (including failure to obtain an HMO licence). There must be sufficient evidence, but a conviction is not essential. Claims must be made by the tenant to the First-tier Tribunal (Eastern Region) using Tribunal application form RRO1. We can support tenants to claim back their rent via RRO. Tenants can also take their own action if their home is not fit for habitation.
We can also recover Housing Benefit/Universal Credit to prevent landlords benefitting from their crimes. See the Government’s guidance on Rent Repayment Orders for further details.
Serious cases are likely to be taken to court, and if found guilty, offenders will receive a criminal record. The penalty for most housing offences is an unlimited fine, but landlords can go to prison for illegal eviction and harassment of tenants. We always seek to recover our investigation costs, and may also pursue a Banning Order.
If a landlord or letting agent is convicted of a 'banning order offence', we can apply for a banning order to stop them letting or managing rental properties in England for a specified period. Breaching a banning order is a very serious offence and can result in further prosecution or high financial penalties
'Rogue Landlords' Database
If a landlord or agent receives two or more financial penalties in the same year, is convicted of a banning order offence, or receive a banning order, we will add them to the national 'rogue landlords' database. This information is accessible to all councils across England to stop criminal landlords operating across boundaries.
Loss of HMO Licence Holder's 'fit and proper' status
Landlords must be ‘fit and proper persons’ to hold licences and manage HMOs. If we discover someone has broken the law then we will review whether they are a suitable person to hold an HMO licence. If we conclude they are not, they must nominate someone independent to hold licences on their behalf, for a specified period of time.
If a suitable licence holder cannot be found, we can make a Management Order. This means we take management control of the property and carry out improvement works, and will use the rental income to repay our costs. Ordinarily, left-over rent is returned to the landlord, however if a landlord/agent has received a Banning Order we keep all of the rent as a further penalty for the banned landlord.
Revocation of HMO Licences
Where licence conditions have not been complied with, or we find a licence holder is no longer ‘fit and proper’, we can revoke licences and require new applications be made nominating a suitable licence holder. We normally issue licences for five years, but we may decide to issue shorter licences if we have concerns.