There is only one sentence in the Renters Reform Bill draft where emphasis has been added:
Clause 58(1) – It is the duty of every local housing authority to enforce the landlord legislation in its
It imposes a duty on local authorities that will lead to a fifteen-fold increase in the number of Financial Penalties issued each year if the statutory duty is complied with
What legislation does this statutory duty apply to?
The ‘landlord legislation’ relates to the following offences:
- Unlawful Eviction and Harassment (Protection From Eviction Act 1977)
- A property being let or listed for let without both landlord and property being registered on the new property portal (Renters Reform Bill)
- A property being let or listed for let without the landlord being registered with the new Housing Ombudsman (Renters Reform Bill)
- Failure to give a written statement of the terms of the tenancy prior to the start of the tenancy Housing Act 1988 [amended by RRB])
- Trying to grant a fixed-term tenancy (Housing Act 1988 [amended by RRB])
- Trying to end the tenancy using a notice to quit rather than the correct form (Housing Act 1988 amended by RRB])
- Serving a notice other than in the prescribed form or with insufficient notice (Housing Act 1988 amended by RRB])
- Serving a notice relying on a ground of possession which did not appear in the written statement given to the tenant at the start of the tenancy (Housing Act 1988 [amended by RRB])
- Serving a notice specifying certain grounds for possession, which specifies a date earlier than six onths from the start of the tenancy (Housing Act 1988 [amended by RRB])
- Remarketing or reletting before the end of the prescribed period when relying on Ground 1 or 1A Housing Act 1988 [amended by RRB])
What does this section 58 duty mean for local authorities? The least burdensome interpretation is: When you are aware that one of the above offences has occurred, you must carry out a criminal prosecution or Financial Penalty.
The legislation is clear that informal action or a caution will breach the statutory duty; only a prosecution or Financial Penalty will suffice.
The more burdensome interpretation is: Every local authority will need to evidence their efforts to discover potential breaches of the above legislation and carry out formal enforcement wherever found.
Updating enforcement policies
If your local authority doesn’t have a Financial Penalty policy or the delegated power to bring Financial Penalties, you cannot meet the new duty. If your enforcement policy states you will consider informal enforcement action, then you will either:
- Breach of your enforcement policy when complying with the statutory duty; or
- Breach the statutory duty when complying with your enforcement policy
Expect the Tribunal to alter or dismiss your Financial Penalties in this scenario.
Which local authorities will be most affected?
Local authorities that do not have any Selective or other discretionary licensing will find it difficult. Local authorities with limited experience with Financial Penalties and without battle-tested templates, processes and staff to carry out the required volume of Financial Penalties will struggle.
Please get in touch with our Financial Penalty Training and Support Lead, Al Mcclenahan, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss anything to do with Financial Penalty policies, best Financial Penalty practice, free training or expanding capacity.
Justice For Tenants has received over £450,000 of funding designated solely to supporting local authorities with their enforcement work in the PRS.