ROGUE landlords around Bognor Regis could be fined £30,000 under new powers.
The dodgy property owners will be hit with fixed penalty notices, as an alternative to being prosecuted, if they deliberately break the law and put their tenants at risk. Property agents will also be subject to the sanction.
Arun District Council’s licensing committee has agreed the notices should be brought in. The decision at last Friday’s meeting is expected to be backed by all the council’s members in July.
Nat Slade, Arun’s group head of technical services, told the committee: “These provisions give the council, as the local housing authority, the power to issue a financial penalty for certain Housing Act 2004 offences after April 6, 2017, as an alternative to prosecution.”
The offences include failing to comply with an improvement notice, offences in relation to the licensing of houses in multiple occupation and contravening an overcrowding notice.
Setting the level of the financial penalty will take into account the severity of the offence, the harm caused to the tenant and deterring the offender from repeating the offence.
“The nature of harm will depend on the personal characteristics and circumstances of the victim, like the tenant,” said Mr Slade.
The highest harm category includes a housing defect which gives rise to a serious and substantial threat of harm to residents and visitors. Examples of this are the danger of electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning or a serious fire risk.
Mr Slade said: “Where no actual harm has resulted from the offence, the council will consider the relative danger that persons have been exposed to as a result of the offender’s conduct, the likelihood of harm occurring and the gravity of harm that could have resulted.”
The fines which will be levied are set in six bands up to £30,000. They will start at £2,500.
“Fixed penalty notices will not be repeatedly issued against the same individual or organisation. The issue of two such notices within the same six months will require the agreement of a relevant manager,” he said.
Repeat offenders will be placed on a national database of rogue landlords to act as a warning to tenants and other councils.
The committee also decided to bring a £100 fixed penalty notice for anyone who breaches a community protection notice.
The notices are issued where unreasonable behaviour of a continuing or persistent nature has a detrimental effect on those who live in the surrounding area.
“These community protection notices require the recipient to do something or not to something, such as cause noise that is audible at the boundary of residential premises,” Mr Slade added.
The notices would be easier to issue than the previous policy of persuing prosecution. But a breach of a notice is a criminal offence.