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Houses of multiple occupancy - enforcement action

Local authorities have a wide range of civil and criminal enforcement powers, including prosecution. Local authorities can use these powers against landlords, letting agents, and managers of properties whereby there has been a failure to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations.

Under the Housing Act 2004, private landlords, property managers, and letting agents can be held legally liable if the property is not correctly licensed. Certain HMO properties must be licensed and at present there are three types of licensing schemes, this being mandatory licensing, additional licensing, and selective licensing. Mandatory licensing applies to all local authorities, whereas additional licensing and selective licensing varies depending on the local authority; each local authority imposes their own criteria in order to address any housing problems in a given ward or borough. Failure to obtain the correct licence is an offence.


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Breaches of regulation

Private landlords, property managers, and letting agents can also be held legally liable if there has been a breach of The Management of HMO (England) Regulations 2006. The regulations detail strict rules that landlords must comply with when managing a HMO. This includes certain measures relating to fire safety, waste disposal, water supply and drainage, and general maintenance of the property. Failure to comply with the legal requirements is an offence.

The varying licensing schemes, along with the fact that the schemes are not always permanent, can make licensing more complex and many landlords find themselves in a position whereby they have either not licensed at all, or have obtained the incorrect licence. The complex nature of the regulations means that landlords often do not realise that they have breached one or more of the regulations, and therefore find themselves caught up in a council investigation or enforcement action.

Council investigations & interviews under caution

Local authorities will usually look to investigate landlords suspected of committing an offence. The property may be subjected to an unannounced inspection, or a landlord/manager/agent may be required to attend an interview under caution (also known as a PACE interview).

You should always seek specialist advice before agreeing to attend an interview under caution with a local authority. These interviews can have serious implications and will often give rise to criminal prosecutions or other enforcement actions. Our specialist lawyers can advise you on the correct approach to take to protect your interests. Take a look at some of our HMO case studies and find out how we have helped landlords, managers, and agents with interviews.

Criminal prosecutions and civil penalties

Once the investigation has been concluded, the local authority will decide upon what action to take. This includes:

  • Cautions
  • Criminal prosecution- This can result unlimited financial penalties and may lead to banning orders or entry onto the rogue landlord database; or
  • Civil penalties of up to £30,000 per offence.

If the local authority intend to prosecute you, you will likely receive a court summons confirming the offence and a court date. If you have received a court summons, it is imperative that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. We can advise you on your legal position in relation to the alleged offences and represent you in the proceedings.

If the local authority intend to issue a civil penalty, they will in the first instance issue a notice of intent to impose a civil penalty. You will have an opportunity to challenge the local authority’s proposal via written representations. Following this, the local authority will issue a final notice confirming the civil penalty imposed. You will have an opportunity to challenge the penalty to the first-tier tribunal (property chamber). We can advise you on your legal position in relation to the alleged offences and the penalty(s) imposed, prepare written representations against a civil penalty, and assist you with an appeal to the first-tier tribunal. There are strict timescales involved and therefore you should seek advice at the earliest opportunity.

It is also important to note that in the event that you are prosecuted or issued with a civil penalty, this can have implications on future licence applications and current licence applications. Further, your tenants will be notified by the council of their right to make a rent repayment order. See our rent repayment order webpage for more information.

Take a look at some of our HMO case studies and find out how we have helped landlords, managers, and agents with civil penalties and prosecutions. 

Our fees

If you or your business is facing investigation, you need to act quickly with the support of a specialist HMO lawyer to limit the financial impact and reputational impact.

Wherever possible our HMO lawyers operate on a fixed fee basis. We will provide you with a clear indication of our fees at each stage of proceedings- for example: initial reviews and advice, interviews under caution, and preparation of legal representations. This allows clarity and certainty on costs whilst your case is ongoing. In the event that we cannot offer a fixed fee, we will provide you with a clear indication of what our fees will be for each stage of your case and provide you with regular updates.

For a confidential no obligation discussion regarding your case, please contact our specialist team on 0161 696 6250.

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