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NRLA survey finds less than half of councils have issued any civil penalties in the last three years

Friday, August 13, 2021 - National Residential Landlords Association

NRLA Research Observatory

Over half of local authorities in England have not issued any civil penalties against rogue or criminal landlords in the last three years according to a new survey by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

Since April 2017 councils across England have been able to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 for a range of housing offences. Income received can be re-invested by local authorities to help finance further enforcement against criminal operators who cause harm to tenants and give private renting a bad name.

Despite this, the results of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from the NRLA show that between 2018/19 and 2020/21, only 130 local authorities in England out of 275 replying to the survey (47%) had issued any civil penalties. Most had used only a handful with 71% of all civil penalties issued by just 20 local authorities.

The survey found that 40% of councils that had issued between one and five civil penalties over the past three years.

The survey found most civil penalties (60%) were served for mandatory HMO, additional and selective licensing offences. Civil penalties relating to improvement or overcrowding notices accounted for 16% of civil penalties.

The survey found that 22% of civil penalties were served for breaches of the HMO Management Regulations.

In total, fewer than 3,200 civil penalties were issued over the last three years by the local authorities responding to the survey.

Significant regional variation

The survey results published by NRLA shows significant regional variation in the use of civil penalties.

Six London Boroughs are in the top 10 authorities serving the most civil penalties over the last 3 years. Top is Camden (335 civil penalties), followed by Newham (265 civil penalties) and Barking & Dagenham (192 civil penalties) in second and third place.

The fifth, sixth and seventh places are taken by Brent (146 civil penalties), Havering (145 civil penalties) and Waltham Forest (117 civil penalties).

When looking at civil penalties for breach of the HMO Management Regulations, just two London Boroughs feature in the top 10. In second place is Havering (63 civil penalties) and in fifth place is Waltham Forest (27 civil penalties). All London Boroughs were beaten by West Northamptonshire Borough Council (99 civil penalties).

When looking at civil penalties for breach of Improvement Notices, just three London Boroughs feature in the top 10. In first place is Havering (75 civil penalties), in second place is Waltham Forest (25 civil penalties) and in fourth place is Barking & Dagenham (23 civil penalties).

Commenting on the results of the survey, Chris Norris, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the NRLA, said:

Our findings show that most councils are failing to use all the tools available to them to tackle rogue and criminal landlords.

By failing to apply appropriate sanctions to punish wrongdoing, councils are weakening the principle of deterrence which underpins the civil penalties regime.

We are calling on all councils to ensure they are making full and proper use of the powers they have to tackle those landlords who cause misery to tenants and bring the sector into disrepute.

The Government’s plans to reform the private rented sector due later this year will mean nothing if changes are not properly enforced.

To date, the NRLA have not released the full survey results for London. We will publish a further update to share the information if they do.

More information, including a copy of the report, is available on the NRLA website.

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