19 Aug 2021
(and then says it has no legal obligation to follow its own policy!)
London Borough of Redbridge Council “secretly and informally” flouted its own policy in order to fine over 100 landlords in just six months.
Testimony from a senior officer in a 2019 court case reveals the council’s policy to try to resolve issues with landlords “informally” before issuing a fine was ignored “for a few weeks” that year. The council then went on to claim it has no legal obligation to follow its own policyFinally, newspapers are starting to catch on to what Landlord Licensing & Defence has been saying for years: that councils are operating illegally and vindictively to maximise revenue by asset stripping landlords through obscene levels fo trumped-up fines as they get rid of old-guard housing officers and replace them with evil, bullying ‘Enforcement Officers’ who are taught that ALL landlords are criminals. They use Artificial Intelligence to find the landlords with ‘ removable wealth’ and go through detailed processes with he sole aim of taking as much of that wealth off them as they possibly can to put into council coffers. A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Ilford Recorder and reported byVictoria Munro in the East London and West Essex Guardian, shows the council ramped up enforcement against landlords and managing agents in 2019, issuing 100 fines in just the first six months.
In a ruling on July 4, 2019, tribunal judge Peter Korn decided the council disobeying its own policy was enough reason to overturn a £5,000 fine issued to a managing agent in that period.
Redbridge Council has yet to confirm how many other fines were issued without following policy, and whether they were cancelled or reviewed in light of the legal precedent.
In his ruling, Judge Korn wrote: “The published policy states officers will always try to resolve issues informally in the first instance, but that did not happen in this case.
“The council accepts that it has deviated from its own policy but states that there is no legal obligation to follow policy.
“However, we do not accept that it was appropriate or reasonable. The reversal in policy did not have the approval of cabinet and had not been published.
“The later reversal of this secretive, informal policy after only a few weeks does suggest that the enforcement team realised either that the change in policy was not a reasonable one, or that in order to change the policy they needed to go through a proper process.”
The £5,000 fine was issued to a property agent for an Ilford flat located inside the council’s selective licensing scheme, because it was found to be unlicensed.
The licensing scheme, introduced in 2017, requires landlords or their agents renting in areas like Ilford town centre, to apply for a five-year licence, which currently costs more than £600.
The aim of the scheme is to allow the council to check landlords are maintaining their homes properly and to crack down on disreputable landlords keeping renters in squalid conditions.
In the case, Judge Korn ruled that it was not “a particularly serious case” that might justify skipping straight to the issuing of a fine.
He noted that the agency’s director was “merely helping his mother to manage the property and did not know that it needed to be licensed”.
He wrote: “Whilst it is important not to lose sight of the fact that an offence was committed, the circumstances are such that the offence was at the very mildest end of the scale.
“The council had discovered no other issues in relation to the property and had no evidence of any prejudice to the tenant and yet it served a notice of intent to impose a very significant financial penalty.
“Had the council first gone through a proper process it could then have been entirely appropriate to impose a financial penalty.”
Redbridge Council was asked on August 9 to confirm when and why the policy was ignored and how many fines were issued in this time, but unsurprisingly had not responded at the time of writing.
If you are a landlord or letting/managing agent and you have received any indication that a council is aiming to enforce against you, issue improvement notices, or financial penalty fines, it is far to dangerous to try to deal with them without professional help. Time is very short to defend you in these matters, so get in touch with Landlord Licensing & Defence immediately for the professional help you need.
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