Bigger fines, better enforcement: even more good news for renters

Measures to help councils crack down on rogue landlords come in to force today. The new powers, which include fines of up to £30,000 for rogue landlords and the extension of Rent Repayment Orders, are great news for renters as they will help councils improve conditions in the private rented sector and give tenants increased protection.

Last week, we told you about some good news for renters coming from the government. Today, we bring you some more: from today onwards, councils will be able to use new powers to tackle rogue landlords and improve conditions and standards in the private rented sector.

Bigger fines for rogue landlords

Councils will now be able to impose fines of up to £30,000 on rogue landlords for a range of housing offences. This will include poor conditions, so if renters make a complaint to their local council about persistent bad conditions and their landlord still won’t do the repairs, the council will be able to fine the landlord a hefty amount of money.

Importantly, councils will be able to keep the money from these fines, and it is ring-fenced to ensure it is only used for enforcement against future rogue landlords. If they don’t use it for this purpose, it will be returned to the Treasury. Last year we wrote about the almost impossible task facing councils, who are having to provide more and more services with less and less money. This problem is particularly acute when it comes to housing and homelessness – in 2015, budget for housing services were reduced by 8%, more than any other council area.

While today’s new powers are a big step forward in the fight to improve conditions in the private rented sector, they will only ever be meaningful if councils are equipped with the resources to use them properly in the first place. This is why it’s so significant that the money raised from the fines is ring-fenced and will go specifically towards helping councils use these powers and improve the private rented sector.

Claiming back rent

As of today councils will also be able to issue Rent Repayment Orders in a much wider range of situations – including illegal evictions, harassment of tenants, using violence to enter a property and the breach of a banning order. Again for renters this means that if their landlord does any of the above, or they’ve had to live in poor conditions, they may be able to claim some of their rent back. Rent Repayment Orders already exist, but they couldn’t be used in cases of poor conditions or the other listed above until now.

We campaigned for both of these powers to be included in the Housing and Planning Act, so we’re delighted to see them finally come in to force. During the passage of the Bill the government showed a real commitment to finding ways to improve conditions in the PRS, even strengthening some of its own measures to tackle rogue landlords. And landlords themselves welcomed the recognition that a few landlords give the rest of the sector a bad name.

Now comes implementation and the process of councils working out how they can best use these new powers. Some councils already have a very effective approach to enforcement and we look forward to working with all councils as they continue to drive up standards in the private rented sector.