Rogue Southend landlords could face higher fines

Rogue landlords could be fined up to £30,000 under plans being considered by Southend Council.

The Government introduced legislation in 2016 allowing local authorities to issue civil penalty notices over issues including overcrowding or failing to make improvements to accommodation.

Southend has not used the power, but is now considering enforcing it in a bid to further ensure tenants are not living in under par conditions.

Fines from £1,000 to £30,000 could be imposed if the council is satisfied that if the matter went to court there would be a realistic prospect of conviction.

The council also introduced its landlord licensing scheme which could see landlord’s lose licences if they do not maintain homes.

Judith Codarin, secretary of the South East Alliance of Landlords, insisted the council should target bad landlords specifically.

She said: “There is so much going on we can’t keep up with it all.

We are all struggling with the paper work for selective licensing.

“Even the council can’t seem to keep up with it all.

“The way the council pursues things is pathetic. They know who the bad landlords are.

“They’ve got the records but they don’t go for them with the excuse that it’s too expensive.

“Meanwhile good landlords are beavering away trying to keep up.

“They aren’t pursuing the right people.”

The latest scheme will add another tool to the council’s armoury when informal actions with landlords fail.

It will also mean costly court action may be avoided.

Under the scheme a landlord who receives two or more civil penalties over a 12-month may have their details included on the database of rogue landlords and property agents.

Those named on the database may find their ability to hold a licence is affected. Any income from civil penalties can be retained by the council but may only be spent in relation to the council’s monitoring and enforcement of the private rented sector.

A report to cabinet, which will meet on Tuesday, said: “The aim of the service is to develop landlords to become more professional and knowledgeable in their role of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of their tenants.

“Where civil penalties are used as enforcement action the aim will be to protect the health of occupiers and improve housing standards.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter