Coventry City Council made an application to the First Tier Tribunal for a Banning Order against a rogue landlord who was convicted in July 2019 of a Banning Order offence prescribed by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Coventry City Council made an application to the First Tier Tribunal for a Banning Order against a rogue landlord who was convicted in July 2019 of a Banning Order offence prescribed by the Housing and Planning Act 2016. The Council pursued the prosecution of several HMO Management Regulation breaches and the landlord pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to comply with Regulation 4 of the Management of Houses in Multiple (England) Regulations 2006 in that he had failed to ensure that any fire fighting equipment and fire alarms were maintained in good working order.
The Council designated the whole of its areas subject to Additional Licensing of HMOs in May 2020 and as such takes a proactive approach to enforcing the requirements of this scheme. Its view is that the scheme makes a positive contribution to improving the quality and choice of housing in Coventry.
The Council adopts a staged approach to enforcement and provides a range of advice and education services for landlords and agents. The Coventry Landlord Accreditation Scheme (CLAS) is a free scheme for landlords in the city and provides training and regularly forums, and newsletters to help landlords stay up to date with changes in legislation as well as providing advice and education on matters such as HHSRS, HMO management and Licensing. The Council offers this help and training, but if Landlords do not use these services, then it expects them to be proactive, professional and competent in their approach.
Safety is an important matter and unsafe properties put lives at risk - merely being reactive is not enough for the Council. Landlords have a responsibility to ensure they carry out proactive management of HMOs and where they do not then enforcement is adopted.
This particular landlord had previously been prosecuted by the Council prior to the introduction of the Banning Order powers within the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
The Council’s enforcement policy suggests that a prosecution will only be used in the most serious cases or where there is repeat offending. As this was the Council’s first Banning Order application the challenge was satisfying the requirements of the application, understanding how best to present its case so as to prove the offence without relying upon the previous spent conviction and financial penalties issued; satisfying the Tribunal that despite the fact that the landlord had only been found guilty of one offence (Regulation 4) it was serious enough to warrant the Banning Order.
The Council targeted proactive enforcement visits to a number of properties owned by this particular landlord to gather as much intelligence about this particular landlord’s pattern of behaviour. By doing this the Council was able to build a stronger case to show that this landlord had a “flagrant disregard for housing legislation”.
It also sought the experiences of colleagues in other Local Authorities who had made both successful and unsuccessful Banning Order applications. The decisions of all Tribunal cases can be found online and by reviewing these decisions the Council was able to learn from the experiences of other authorities to provide itself with the best possible chance of success.
The Council relied heavily on its published policy on enforcing standards in private sector housing which sets the framework for all housing enforcement activities in Coventry. The policy provides that Coventry will implement the powers under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and Housing Act 2004 in accordance with guidance provided by government. In respect of Banning Orders, Coventry’s policy is to consider these for the most serious offenders, meaning those who breached their legal obligations and rent out accommodation which is substandard and where previous sanctions, such as a prosecution, has not resulted in positive improvements.
The landlord has been included on the Rogue Landlord Database and is now banned for 15 months from:
- Letting housing in England,
- Engaging in English letting agency work,
- Engaging in English property management work, or
- Doing two or more of those things
The Landlord is also banned from being involved in any body corporate that carries out an activity that he is banned from carrying out and from making an unauthorised transfer of the land to a prohibited person.
The Council is now working with his solicitor to agree suitable management arrangements which a reputable agent. The HMO’s are currently being licensed and have been subject to a higher fee/ shorter licence in line with the Council’s HMO licensing policy. The Council has also issued the landlord with financial penalties totaling £5,000 for offences identified at other properties.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The Council’s policy for enforcing standards on the private rented sector is reviewed and refreshed regularly to take into account changes in legislation, for example the Council recently included in its policy the approach it now adopts in relation to the Electrical Safety Regulations and the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards to ensure that its officers have the full range of powers available to them when carrying out enforcement activity.