Further to our previous blog on selective licensing, as predicted, prosecution of landlords are on the increase.

To recap, a number of local authorities have introduced selective licensing zones. If a private landlord has a property within one of these zones they are required to hold an appropriate licence. If a private landlord is found to be without a licence they may be prosecuted and prevented from renting out their property in the immediate future, which may have a devastating effect on their livelihood. Prosecutions can also be brought for breaches of an existing license.

Sections 79, 80 and 81 of the Housing Act 2004 (“the Act”) provided for the introduction of the selective licensing of private landlords. The underlying purpose of the legislation was to improve the private rental market. It is envisaged that selective licensing will enable local authorities to work in conjunction with private landlords to ensure that they develop a more professional private rented sector where conditions are upheld for the benefit of tenants.

The Act came into force in April 2006 and thereafter, on 27 March 2015, the Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/977) came into force.

Recent prosecutions include:

  • Waltham Forest prosecuted a landlord for failing to obtain a licence under the council’s borough wide selective licensing scheme. Warning letters were sent to the individual who failed to respond. A later inspection confirmed that the property was being rented privately. The landlord was fined £800 for the offence and also ordered to pay court costs of £637.31 and a victim surcharge of £80;
  • Wirral Council prosecuted a landlord in relation to three offences namely, being in control of an unlicensed property, providing false and misleading information and not producing certain documents. The individual appeared before Liverpool Magistrates Court and was ordered to pay £37,120 in fines and costs
  • A County Durham landlord was prosecuted and ordered to pay over £500 by the court after failing to supply tenant references in accordance with the Ferryhill Selective Licensing designation.

Given the detrimental effect that a prosecution of this kind can have, private landlords need to ensure that they understand their obligations and adhere with them.