Cheshire East Council has pledged to clampdown on rogue landlords who allow tenants to live in poor housing standards within the local area after amending its existing enforcement policy.
Tough new penalties being introduced by Cheshire East Council, designed to ensure that people who are renting live in safe and good quality properties, include the option to ban unscrupulous landlords from letting properties or adding them to a national database of rogue landlords.
Landlords will also have to ensure their properties comply with a minimum energy efficiency standard or face a fine of up to £5,000.
The updated housing enforcement policy also includes a guide for landlords of HMOs, outlining the amenities, property and management standards expected of them and details a stronger ‘fit and proper person’ test.
These new powers add to the enforcement options already available to the council, which include civil penalties of up to £30,000 and rent repayment orders for certain housing offences – both of which were added to the policy in August 2017.
Cllr Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, said: “There are many responsible private landlords in Cheshire East, who offer well-managed accommodation that is of a good standard, helping to ensure the welfare of tenants.
“Disappointingly, though, there are a small number who either do not understand their legal responsibilities when providing housing or deliberately ignore their duties.
“This council is committed to challenging poor-quality housing and will proactively work with landlords to improve standards, where they fall short.
“But, where landlords fail to take the necessary action, we will make full use of the enforcement options available to us.”
Buy-to-let landlords who operate houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in Cheshire East will face new licensing fees after the local council decided to replace the previous £575 fixed fee with a new structure.
The fixed fee of £575, which was set for a period of up to five years regardless of the size of the HMO, has now been replaced with a scale of fees and charges, ranging from £430 for an initial licence for smaller HMOs, up to £760 for a renewal licence for up to five years for the largest.
The revised fees come ahead of changes in government legislation, which will be introduced in October, permitting local councils to bring HMOs under closer scrutiny.
The government is expanding the mandatory licencing of HMOs, bringing more properties into the licensing regime from 1 October 2018 with a view to ensuring more homes meet acceptable standards.
The existing law says that where the HMO is three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more people who are from two or more households, there should be a HMO licence in place.
From 1 October 2018, any HMO occupied by five or more people will need a licence regardless of how many storeys the property has.
This includes any HMO which is a building or converted flat. It also applies to purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as a HMO.
Some 60,000 HMOs currently require a licence and it is estimated that a further 177,000 properties could need one under the new rules.
Landlords who fail to comply with licensing reforms by 1 October 2018 will be committing a criminal offence from that date
Arnold added: “Operating without a licence is a criminal offence and landlords could face an unlimited fine. That is why we are urging landlords of HMOs, who have not already done so, to apply for one as soon as possible.
“As it’s important that we know the location of all HMOs in Cheshire East, so that they can be checked to ensure they are being properly managed, we are also urging people to tell us about properties in their local communities that they believe are HMOs.”