Renters (Reform) Bill: A Tour Bus Guide – Stop 6: Unlawful Eviction
The Renters (Reform) Bill has been published. What does it say? What does it mean, for landlords and for tenants?
In this series, members of the 42BR Housing Team stop off at different landmarks, considering the implications of the new law along the way.
Unlawful Eviction Financial Penalties: A Safety Net against Conviction?
Clause 22(3) of the Renters (Reform) Bill proposes to introduce a new section 1A into the Protection From Eviction Act 1977, which would give local housing authorities the power to impose a financial penalty on a person if satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed under section 1.
While the size of such a penalty is to be determined by the local authority, section 1A(3) provides a maximum of £30,000.
However, the power to impose a financial penalty under section 1A(1) is not unfettered, as section 1A(2) prevents the power being exercised by a local authority in the following circumstances:
- where the person has been convicted of an offence under that section in respect of the conduct,
- where criminal proceedings for an offence under that section in respect of the conduct have been instituted against the person and the proceedings have not been concluded, or
- where criminal proceedings for an offence under that section in respect of the conduct have been concluded and the person has not been convicted of the offence.
Clause 22(2) of the Bill proposes to insert a new subsection (7) into section 1 of the Act, by preventing a court’s ability to convict if a financial penalty has already been imposed under section 1A.
Rogue landlords currently face conviction if found guilty under section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If clause 22 remains unaltered by the time the Renters (Reform) Bill is given Royal Assent, then such individuals may never again face conviction if local authorities choose to impose financial penalties instead.
As for the proceeds of financial penalties, this is covered within paragraph 12 of a proposed new Schedule A1 to the Protection from Eviction Act, which states that the local authority “may apply the proceeds towards meeting the costs and expenses (whether administrative or legal) incurred in, or associated with, carrying out any of its enforcement functions under this Act or otherwise in relation to the private rented sector.”
Considering the pressures facing local authorities – in terms of both finances and human resources – the imposition of financial penalties may very well be a preferred choice, and used as a potential income stream for “meeting the costs and expenses incurred in, or associated with, carrying out its enforcement functions in relation to the private rented sector”.
There seems to be no good reason for financial penalties to be made a bar to conviction, and it is hard to see what purpose this will serve (apart from encouraging the worst types of landlords to carry on their unlawful conduct). Will the imposition of a financial penalty act as any form of deterrent to such individuals?
Is clause 22 a force for good? The meter currently points to ‘no’. Only time will tell.
A Tour Bus Guide to the Renters (Reform) Bill
Stop 6: Unlawful Eviction
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