New powers help Cornwall Council and Police tackle criminal private landlords

In a drive to raise standards of privately rented accommodation in Cornwall, private sector landlords who do not meet new standards or turn a blind eye to criminal activity could face banning orders, tougher licensing rules and fines of up to £30,000 for criminal or anti-social behaviour.

New powers, which came into force in April this year, allow the Council and Police to work more closely together, in order to target enforcement in properties associated with criminality and take private landlords to task if they or their tenants are breaking the law. 

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The new rules mean Cornwall Council can apply for an order which bans landlords from renting out properties if they fail to comply with a housing improvement notice or prohibition order, commit offences relating to property licensing, fraud, illegal eviction or harassment of an occupier, committing fire safety or gas safety offences, the production, possession or supply of drugs, anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and theft.

In a unique arrangement, a dedicated Police Community Support Officer is working alongside Cornwall Council’s Housing Service to identify and deal with criminal landlords.

In addition, from 1 October 2018, new property licensing rules also mean landlords who rent out houses of multiple occupation where there are five or more people sharing, will have to apply to the Council for a property licence to operate lawfully.  Failure to secure a licence could result in a fine of up to £30,000 or prosecution.

Property licences can have conditions attached including requirements for the landlords to take reasonable steps to prevent or deal with antisocial behaviour. Cornwall Council is expecting more than 300 properties to be affected by this change in law with a high number of student occupied properties expected to comply with the new rules.

The Council may also now issue fines of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution and apply to a housing tribunal to recover rent paid to a landlord when housing offences are committed.

Cornwall Council Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Homes, Andrew Mitchell, said: “We know that up to 50% of privately rented accommodation does not meet the decent homes standard. With the help of these new measures, we are working closely with the police to improve that. The new requirement to apply for a license for properties of multiple occupation will also make a big difference.

“Tenants and their neighbours have the right to expect safe properties with reasonable standards of accommodation and the assurance that their landlord will deal with problems swiftly and transparently. Through the Council’s Responsible Landlords Scheme, we are committed to working with good and improving landlords and will use the full range of powers to safeguard those tenants who are being exploited by unscrupulous landlords who profit from providing poor quality and dangerous homes.

“We support those who are committed to improve through our Responsible Landlords Scheme, but this sends a clear message to those who behave irresponsibly. If you flout the law and place the health, safety and welfare of those residing in the private rented sector at risk of harm, we will not hesitate to take action against you.”

Landlords wanting to learn more about their legal obligations including property licencing can join the Councils Responsible Landlords Scheme or call 01872 224 543.

Posted on 11 July