Category Archives: Legal

Council scraps £100 fines for begging

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A local authority has given up trying to fine people £100 for begging after realising that the tactic doesn’t work very well, rather unsurprisingly.

Southampton City Council brought in the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) three years ago – and in that time 32 fixed penalties have been issued of which only one has actually been paid.

Conceding defeat, the council said: ‘Few of these fixed penalties were paid and they did little to change the behaviour of these individuals.’

However, an outfit that represents business types called Go! Southampton is demanding the PSPOs remain, as the problem is apparently getting worse and ‘professional beggars’ are operating ‘on a rota basis’.

In a letter to the council, GO! Southampton said: ‘PSPO is one of the few tools we have to combat the proliferation of beggars. Over the last 12 months, 60% of our businesses have reported that antisocial behaviour issues associated with begging have impacted their business.’

But according to the council, the likes of police action and community protection notices have been more effective.

Community wellbeing councillor Dave Shields said: ‘It’s not working and we would rather focus on the things that will work.’

New today: Online package to tackle rogue landlords

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The private rented sector (PRS) is going to be reformed ‘for the better’ the government reckons, and has announced a new package of online support to help councils tackle dodgy landlords.

This very day, the government has published two new guidance documents – one for local authority enforcement practitioners, one for tenants and landlords – that it says ‘signals the latest step’ in its crack down on the ‘small minority of criminal landlords who exploit tenants for their own gains’.

And what does this new support consist of? Well, it includes ‘an easy to navigate digital enforcement package with online learning modules for those officers who were unable to attend the national programme’.

Meanwhile, ‘the guide for tenants and landlords brings together the rights and responsibilities of each, provides links to in depth guidance on legislation and complements previous steps by the government to support those in the private rented sector, including through the How to let and How to rent guides’.

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said: ‘This package of support for those working on the frontline of the private rented sector will ensure they are fully equipped to make use of any new powers which can improve the lives of tenants trapped in poor quality accommodation.

‘This, along with our further guidance for tenants and landlords on their rights and responsibilities, builds on the ongoing work which sets out to make renting fairer and more accessible for all whilst also ensuring that everyone has a home which is safe and secure.’

Why not have a look at these publications for yourself – they’re right here.

Students empowered to strike back against dodgy landlords

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Dodgy landlords that provide rubbish living conditions for students are going to get a telling off today.

Universities minister Chris Skidmore will warn rogue renters that brand new regulations will give ‘tenants the power to make them face justice in court’.

According to the government, one in five students live in squalor and have reported ‘mice, slugs, and other vermin infesting their accommodation’.

The new regulations, which came into force last week, give renters across the country the right to take landlords to court if they fail to address serious defects in their properties, such as mould, damp and safety hazards.

MP Skidmore said: ‘Students’ time at university should be some of the best days of their lives and yet I have heard appalling stories of students living in terrible conditions, which can affect their studies and even their mental health.

‘While there are many landlords who do take their responsibilities seriously, for too long rogue private landlords have been exploiting vulnerable students by failing to provide even basic standards of living.

‘Now the time is up for these landlords making a profit from shoddy accommodation. These new regulations make landlords more accountable, helping to improve standards, and students should use their powers to make sure landlords face justice where they’re not fulfilling their responsibilities.’

Housing minister Heather Wheeler MP also had something to say: ‘For the last year, we have worked tirelessly to ensure all tenants, including students, have access to a fairer private rented market across the country.

‘From cracking down on unnecessary costs through our Tenant Fees Act, extending HMO regulations to offer protections to more tenants than ever before and giving councils the funding they need to tackle rogue landlords, we are determined to make renting of the standard it should be.’

And the whole press release can be found here.

 

Specialist ‘housing court’ proposed

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Landlords and tenants are set to get faster and more effective justice around property disputes, under new government proposals.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is seeking views on a specialist housing court, which, if created, will provide a single path of redress for both landlords and tenants.

According to the MHCLG, though most landlords are responsible, ‘a number of tenants continue to live with the fear of being evicted at short notice or remain stuck in poor accommodation’.

Housing disputes, the ministry says, are held in a number of different legal settings which can make the process ‘confusing and act as a deterrent to some of the most vulnerable seeking justice’.

Announcing the proposals, housing secretary James Brokenshire said: ‘Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home, and this government is bringing about real change in making renting more secure.

‘This is particularly important for families and vulnerable tenants who live with the fear of suddenly being forced to move, or fear eviction if they complain about problems with their home. It is also important for landlords who, in a minority of cases, struggle to get their property back when they have reason to do so.’

Other proposals include: reducing the need for multiple hearings in different courts; transferring certain types of housing cases between the courts and tribunal or vice-versa to ensure cases are resolved quickly; and issuing new guidance to help tenants and landlords navigate their way through the legal system.

Additionally, the government believes efforts to further streamline court processes could provide confidence for landlords to offer longer, more secure tenancies.

 

Government releases housing cases investigation

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The government has published an investigation looking at the factors affecting the progress, timescales and outcomes of housing cases in county courts.

Back in October 2017, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced new measures aimed at improving consumer rights in the private rented sector (PRS), with particular focus on removing barriers to landlords granting longer tenancies.

The new report outlines the findings of a qualitative research study undertaken to understand tenants’ and landlords’ experience of the county courts and First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), and to identify issues that may be deterring them from exercising their rights effectively.

Some landlords reported that they prefer to use the ‘no fault’ Section 21 (S.21) / accelerated possession process to regain possession rather than Section 8 (S.8), even if there are sufficient grounds, such as rent arrears, for using the latter.

According to the investigation, accelerated possession ‘appears to operate relatively well, at least up to “possession order” stage’.

From claim to possession order stage, it offers a streamlined process designed for possession cases, which is supported by Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics.

Nevertheless, some landlords said it takes too long to get to possession order stage because even if a S.21 notice is used, there is often an underlying reason for wanting possession, such as rent arrears, damage, or ASB.

Another perceived ‘delay’ factor was the advice and involvement of tenant support services. Most claims proceed without a response from tenants. However, if tenants receive advice at an early enough stage, the complexity of the application gives them more scope to challenge a claim.

The research also revealed backlogs and bottlenecks in court administrative procedures, with some of those quizzed believing that the lack of staff, closure of courts, a high workload and outdated IT led to delays in processing paperwork.

Read the whole report here.