Not enough landlords are taking lawyers to council interviews where they are accused of criminal housing offences, claims a property solicitor.
Landlords are attending these interviews that can end with them facing fixed penalty fines of thousands of pounds or criminal charges in court, says David Kirwan of Wirral legal firm Kirwans.
But they are unaware of the consequences of an interview under caution, he argues.
“A number of landlords have contacted me seeking legal assistance after an interview has taken place, a criminal prosecution has started or penalties have been imposed,” said Kirwan.
“By that point it is sometimes too late to engage with the council and landlords may be left with the options of either appealing to the First Tier Tribunal or to deal with a criminal prosecution in the courts.
“The preferable option, and one which is open to local authorities, is to work with landlords failing to comply, to offer advice and support, educate them about their duties and responsibilities and help to create a reliable pool of landlords instead of imposing swingeing penalties or criminal prosecution.
“At a time when the UK is facing a critical rental shortage, council support and education would be of far more benefit to landlords and tenants alike than turning to these overly harsh sanctions.”
Meanwhile in a separate action, Birmingham City Council issued the council’s first fixed penalty against an unnamed Small Heath landlord accused of flouting house in multiple occupation laws.
The landlord must pay £2,000 for failure to fit the property with fire safety measures. The property which, housed nine tenants, had no HMO license.
The fine was issued under new rules introduced by the government earlier this year which allows councils to fine offenders up to £30,000 for breaking housing laws.