New powers which will give Liverpool City Council the ability to hit rogue landlords with fines of up to £30,000 are set to be approved.
The Cabinet is being asked to adopt new powers under the Housing and Planning Act to impose civil penalties on private sector landlords where properties are unsafe or dangerous, without having to resort to court action.
It is the latest in a raft of measures introduced to drive up the quality and standard of private sector rented properties in the city, which now accounts for around 30 percent of homes.
In 2016, the city council received over 3,500 complaints about properties – with the majority about the private rented sector.
Liverpool is the only city in the country to operate a Landlord Licensing scheme – introduced in 2015 – which lays out standards that the private rented sector must meet, and gives tenants an expectation of their rights.
A further 1,300 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties are subject to the separate Mandatory Licensing Scheme and will also be covered.
The new powers will enable the council to take action against breaches of Landlord and HMO licences, plus for overcrowding and failing to comply with an improvement notice.
Councillor Frank Hont, Cabinet member for housing, said: “We have many good and responsible landlords in Liverpool, but the sad fact is that we have some who are happy to take the money and house people in appalling conditions.
“It is simply not right that people who are the poorest and most vulnerable in society are sometimes living in dangerous conditions with badly wired electrics, doors which aren’t fireproof and blocked escape routes.
“We are determined to send out a clear message that we will take action where we come across landlords breaking the law.
“Nobody should live in a death trap and these new powers will give us a greater ability to take action against bad landlords without the need to take a case to court. All the money we raise will be used to enable us fund more enforcement action.”
So far the city has granted 38,000 Landlord Licences, but a further 6,500 unlicensed properties have been reported.
Of those unlicensed properties which have been inspected, around 78 percent have been found to be non-compliant, usually with significant issues in relation to fire, and in some cases they have been closed down. There have been 19 successful prosecutions, 113 cautions issued and 41 formal written warnings. Another 670 cases are currently being considered for prosecution.
Recent enforcement cases brought by the city council’s Landlord Licensing team include:
• Closure of three bedsits on Lodge Lane in Toxteth in October 2017 which were a serious fire risk for tenants. It had been poorly converted into eight bedsits, all of which were unlicensed including broken fire doors with missing self-closers, damage to walls and ceilings within the bedsits and the means of escape, allowing for the fast passage of smoke and fire and exposed electric meters in communal areas increasing the risk of spread from fire.
• Closure of six privately rented flats on Grey Road in Walton in September 2017 due to smoke detectors not working, problems with fire doors and a dangerous electricity meter. The team found that the automatic fire detection providing protection to the common areas of the property was defective and completely disconnected from the electrical supply. It would not have provided any warning of a fire in the property, and threatened to prevent tenants escaping from the upper floors.
• A landlord whose tenant’s home on Clanfield Road in Croxteth was flooded with sewage from a blocked drain was found guilty by magistrates in September 2017 of managing a property without a compulsory licence, and fined more than £1,300.
• A landlord who rented out unlicensed properties and breached an Emergency Prohibition Order was fined more than £15,000 in September 2017. They pleaded guilty to 17 charges including operating unlicensed properties and breaching an Emergency Prohibition Order on two separate occasions. The means of escape was obstructed with domestic waste and furniture which would hinder swift exit in the event of a fire and there was no proper fire alarm system in place.
The report will be considered by the Cabinet on Friday 24 November.