‘Extra funding for councils can help them to enforce lettings legislation’ – PayProp

Several funding boosts in recent years should mean local authorities are better equipped to tackle the enforcement of lettings legislation in 2020, according to PayProp.

The lettings payment automation provider says that using the additional funds to train more enforcement officers could lead to more penalties being issues, including banning orders for the worst offenders – which have been used sparingly since their introduction.

Latest funding could boost compliance

Earlier this month, it was announced that 100 local councils will receive an additional £4 million in funding to combat rogue landlords and letting agencies.

The money will be used to train over 100 enforcement officers across Yorkshire and Humberside and create a Special Operations Unit in Northampton.

It will also be used to help vulnerable young tenants in Thurrock, Essex, and to trial new technology identifying particularly cold homes in Greenwich, Greater London.

“The standout measure here is the money being used to train over 100 new enforcement officers in the North of England,” says Neil Cobbold, Chief Operating Officer of PayProp UK.

“One of the biggest issues in the rental sector in recent years is the lack of enforcement of a rising number of regulations aimed at improving industry standards.”

“More enforcement officers across the country would significantly help to increase compliance, meeting the government’s goal of raising standards and discouraging rogue operators,” he says.

Over £10m committed to rogue landlord funds in the past year

Over the last 12 months, the government has committed to providing over £10 million in local authority funding to combat criminal landlords and agencies.

On top of this month’s funding boost, almost £2.4 million was provided to 50 local councils in January 2019, while a further £3.8 million was issued in November last year.

The money provided last year was earmarked for improvement of cross-agency enforcement work, as well as training programmes, staffing, PropTech and more.

“Industry insiders have often criticised the government for not providing enough funding for enforcement, but an increased amount has been pledged in the last 12 months,” says Cobbold.

“If used properly this funding could benefit letting agencies by ridding the industry of those intent on breaking the law and helping to improve its reputation with the public.”

Could more banning orders be issued in 2020?

Cobbold suggests that if the additional government funding is used to enforce legislation more effectively, one of the principal results could be a rise in the number of penalties issued this year.
As part of the penalty options, banning orders were introduced in April 2018, but it took until September 2019 for the first one to be issued, with only a few more handed out since.

Introduced as part of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and alongside the database of rogue landlords and property agents, banning orders are ordered by a First-Tier Tribunal and follow local housing authority application.

Receiving a banning order is a criminal offence and prohibits landlords or agents from letting housing in England and engaging in English letting agency or property management work.

“Banning orders are only reserved for the very worst offenders. We may see a number of penalty options used, but local authorities that do increase enforcement will show that they are serious about raising industry standards,” says Cobbold.

“With further legislation changes expected throughout this year, it’s important that the authorities do everything they can with the additional funding to ensure widespread compliance,” he concludes.