Agenda item

Private Sector Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy

To seek approval for the draft Private Sector Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy following appropriate consultation; and for delegated powers arrangements for the future setting of charges for housing enforcement actions.



Cabinet received a report seeking approval for the draft Private Sector Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy, following appropriate consultation, and for delegated powers to be granted for the future setting civil penalty charges.


The Housing and Planning Act 2016 gave Local Housing Authorities additional powers for dealing with landlords and property agents who had failed to maintain the standards expected of them. This included the ability to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to the prosecution of landlords, letting agents or property managers for relevant housing offences. The 2016 Act also permitted the inputting of problematic landlords’ data onto a national database. In relation to prolific offenders, the Authority had the ability to apply for banning orders, banning a person from the letting or management of property.


In October 2018, Cabinet had agreed to permit the use of these additional powers.  At that time, it was envisaged consideration would be given to developing a Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy as good practice to support the use of these powers.  Cabinet had approved the necessary delegated authority to enable that.  Since then officers had worked regionally with other Local Housing Authorities to shape a new policy, taking into account other new legislation and guidance subsequently introduced and had undertaken a comprehensive consultation exercise which had been affected by the national lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.


The Government had made it clear in guidance that it expected each Local Housing Authority to have a Housing Enforcement Policy so that the public, tenants and landlords and agents were aware of how it was likely to use its new powers under the relevant pieces of legislation. The aim of the Policy was to support good landlords and set out policies and procedures in place for tackling those landlords who did not comply with their legal obligations. This Policy would fit into the wider work that the Authority was undertaking to ensure North Tyneside was a great place to live, work, and visit. The Policy would provide a framework to ensure consistency and proportionality in decision-making.


The Private Sector Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, provided a staged approach to enforcement action that could be taken against landlords and property agents. The Policy had been developed in line with the principles set out in the published North Tyneside Statement of Enforcement Policy.


The Housing Enforcement Policy was required to comply with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) guidance documents issued under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.


The Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy set out the level of charge that would be applied by the Authority as a means of  recovering administrative and other expenses incurred for taking any of the enforcement actions set out in section 49 of the Housing Act 2004. The taking of enforcement action would be proportionate to the hazard and risk posed to the occupants, and in accordance to the HM Government Enforcement Guidance for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. The details of the charges were set out in Appendix 3 to the report.


The statutory guidance made it clear that Local Housing Authorities were expected to develop and document in a Policy setting out when the they would consider it appropriate to prosecute and when it would be considered appropriate to issue a civil penalty.


The statutory guidance, whilst indicating that prosecution may be the most appropriate option for particularly serious offences or where the offender had committed similar offences in the past, did not rule out the use of a civil penalty for serious offences. If a civil penalty was imposed where there was evidence of a serious offence having been committed, then a penalty of up to £30,000 could be imposed. It could therefore be appropriate where there had been a serious offence for the Authority to impose a significant financial penalty rather than prosecuting the offender. New regulations on electrical standards provided for the use of a civil or financial penalty for non-compliance as the only punitive punishment option available. The determination of the level of penalty to be imposed by the Authority would be in line with the proposed Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy.


A comprehensive six-week consultation process on the Policy had been undertaken between8 February and 22 March 2021.  In total 20 responses had been received to this consultation exercise.  A summary of the responses received, and the amendments made to the Policy as a result of those responses was attached at Appendix 2 to the report.  It was noted that respondents were strongly in favour of the Policy and welcomed the clarity it would bring.


Cabinet considered the following decision options: to accept the recommendations set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report; or alternatively, to not accept the recommendations.


Resolved that (1) the draft Private Sector Housing Enforcement and Civil Penalties Policy, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, and the charges for housing enforcement actions attached at Appendix 3 to the report be approved; and

(2)  any future setting of charges for housing enforcement actions be

delegated to the Director of Environment, Housing and Leisure in consultation with the Director of Resources and the Director of Law and Governance.


(Reasons for decision: The powers provided by the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Housing Act 2004 will enable the Authority to help improve the quality of private rented accommodation in the Borough and to act against landlords, letting agents and property managers who knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation. The use of the Policy will assist in achieving these goals.)


Supporting documents: