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Rogue landlords in Newham face fines of up to £30,000

PUBLISHED: 17:38 07 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:58 11 April 2017

Police officers on a housing raid in Newham

Police officers on a housing raid in Newham

Archant

Rogue landlords who exploit and endanger Newham residents could face fines of up to £30,000 under new powers passed by the council.

Outbuildings pictured from inside a house during a raid by Newham Council officers and police. Picture: Kat HoppsOutbuildings pictured from inside a house during a raid by Newham Council officers and police. Picture: Kat Hopps

The local authority can now take direct enforcement action against criminal landlords after cabinet agreed to pass the tools available to them under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 last night.

This means that instead of having to wait months for expensive cases to progress to court, the council can levy significant civil penalties without the need for criminal prosecution proceedings.

Landlords who fail to repair, manage or improve their properties when required to do will be at risk of the fines.

Rent Repayment Orders (RRO), introduced under the Housing Act 2004 to recover Housing Benefit/Universal Credit, will also be extended to include instances where a criminal landlord has used violence to secure entry.

A Newham police officer discovers an outside boiler in use. Picture: Kat HoppsA Newham police officer discovers an outside boiler in use. Picture: Kat Hopps

Landlords who have illegally evicted or harassed tenants, or not complied with improvement notices or Prohibition Orders will be targeted too.

The new powers will introduce banning orders for the worst criminal landlords who could face imprisonment and a fine if they don’t comply.

The same individuals will be added to a new national Rogue Landlords Database to stop them operating anywhere in Englad.

With the new powers, the council will be able to keep monies collected in fines and reinvest this into its private renting housing teams.

‘Evidence gathering’ is vital

Ensuring that properties in the borough hold the relevant licences is an ongoing battle for the council.

Before fines are issued, the necessary evidence needs to be gathered to prove whether laws or safety regulations are being broken.

On a housing raid with council employees and police officers last week, reporter Kat Hopps was able to witness first-hand what this work entailed.

Two properties were visited before 9am relating to concerns that the landlords in questions were operating without a valid licence for the properties.

At one residence, an outdoor boiler and lockers were found in an alleyway leading from the back door.

Several outbuildings could also be viewed from the inside of the property.

Anthoney Quinn, lead principal environment officer for Newham Council, said “evidence gathering” would now be vital for his team to establish what happens next.

He said: “We were not able to access the full property so we will be talking to our colleagues to understand the history of the peoperty and secure more evidence.”

In the second case, several men were discovered inside a cockroach-infested house in Plaistow.

One man was arrested by the police regarding his immigration status.

The investigations of the council’s housing team officers continues.

Since the launch of its borough-wide licensing scheme in 2013, the private rented sector enforcement team has helped make 1,072 prosecutions against criminal landlords.

It has also issued 415 cautions and reclaimed nearly £2.5million in unpaid council tax.

Newhan Council accounted for 70 per cent of prosecutions in the capital during 2015/6 under the 2004 Housing Act.

Welcoming the news, Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, said: “Landlords who rip-off and endanger their tenants should never be allowed to operate.

“Newham has led the way in tackling rogue landlords and these new penalties will help us build on the success of our borough-wide licensing scheme in uncovering criminal landlords, protecting tenants and driving up standards across Newham’s private rented sector.”

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