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New powers promised for councils in crackdown on rogue landlords

The Government is to hand councils additional powers to tackle rogue landlords as part of a package of measures that will also see landlords guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to conduct ‘right to rent’ checks.

Under the plans – to be contained in the forthcoming Immigration Bill – landlords who repeatedly fail to conduct such checks or fail to take steps to remove illegal immigrants from their property could face a fine, up to 5 years’ imprisonment and further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act. 

A ‘right to rent’ pilot conducted in the West Midlands is to be extended across the country, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.

The DCLG said the Bill would also enable landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants more easily, “by giving them the means to end a tenancy when a person’s leave to remain in the UK ends - in some circumstances without a court order”.

This would be triggered by a notice from the Home Office confirming that the individual tenant no longer has the right to rent in the UK. The landlord would be expected then to take action.

The DCLG added that the measures would also include:

  • A blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents, “helping councils to focus their enforcement action on where it is most needed, and keeping track of those who have been convicted of housing offences”;
  • Extension of Rent Repayment Orders “so local authorities can claim back rent payments from landlords who abuse the Housing Benefit system by failing to ensure the property is maintained to a good standard”;
  • Permitting the sharing of Tenancy Deposit Protection data “to help councils crack down on rogue landlords who knowingly rent out unsafe and overcrowded accommodation”.

The DCLG said it plans to introduce a new “tougher” fit and proper person test for landlords of properties that have to be licenced. Landlords will also be able to recover abandoned properties “more quickly without the need to go to court”.

A technical discussion paper on the proposals can be viewed here.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords who make money out of illegal immigration – exploiting vulnerable people and undermining our immigration system. In future, landlords will be required to ensure that the people they rent their properties to are legally entitled to be in the country.

“We will also require them to meet their basic responsibilities as landlords, cracking down on those who rent out dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties.”

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