Financial Penalties

Housing Act 2004 Section 249A and Schedule 13A

Housing Act 2004 Section 249A and Schedule 13A

If you’ve just searched for this term, then the chances are very high that you’ve received a letter from your Council’s Housing Enforcement Officer similar to the ones in the photo.

It means that your Council Housing department have already decided that you are guilty without trial of Criminal Acts in relation to The Housing Act 2004 and related Regulations. Often they do not have enough evidence. But most landlords don’t understand the danger they are in and happily give the Council more and more evidence with which to prosecute them.

**Do not attempt to discuss your letter on notice with anyone at the Council before you take professional advice.**

Why?

Because, just like the police when suspecting someone of a serious crime, their only interest now is to get you to self-incriminate so that they can substantiate their “Guilty” decision and can then proceed to extract many £1,000s from you by way of Civil Financial Penalty Fines or take you to Criminal Court.

You would not phone up the police for a bit of a chat to explain why you thought it was ok to drive at 105 miles per hour. You would not dream of giving them all the evidence thy need to prosecute you without having professional representation.  In exactly the same way, to avoid giving the Council all the evidence they need to prosecute or fine you.

And we hate to say it, but you probably are guilty. It is extremely easy to be guilty of offences under the Housing Act(s). 

Failure to apply for an HMO or Selective Licence

Many councils’ favourite ‘crime’ is that of failing to apply for an HMO or Selective Licence. 

They will raid a house that they think *might* be a licensable HMO of 5 persons under that Mandatory HMO Licensing legislation (or 3 if they have an Additional Licensing Scheme in operation) and they only have to 

Quite often it’s just a visiting girl or boyfriend – but that’s enough for them to throw the book at you.

And throwing the book at you is exactly what they will do because they will set out to find you in breach of ALL of these ‘relevant housing offences’ under Section 249A:

Many councils’ favourite ‘crime’ is that of failing to apply for an HMO or Selective Licence. They will raid a house that they think *might* be a licensable HMO of 5 persons under that Mandatory HMO Licensing legislation (or 3 if they have an Additional Licensing Scheme in operation) and they only have to *suspect* there could be a fifth person living there that you’re probably not even aware of. Quite often it’s just a visiting girl or boyfriend – but that’s enough for them to throw the book at you.

And throwing the book at you is exactly what they will do because they will set out to find you in breach of ALL of these ‘relevant housing offences’ under Section 249A:

Housing Act 2004 Section 30 – failure to comply with an improvement notice

Housing Act 2004 Section 72 – failure to licence an HMO

Housing Act 2004 Section 95 – failure to licence a house under Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004 (i.e. failure to apply for a Selective Licence)

Housing Act 2004 Section 139(7) – failure to comply with an overcrowding notice

Housing Act 2004 Section 237 – failure under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations (England) 2006 including (and they usually create a separate Civil Penalty for each of these that they can get you on):

Regulation 3 – failure to display the managers full details prominently in the HMO

Regulation 4 – failure of the manager to take safety measures

Regulation 5 – failure of the manager to maintain water supply and drainage

Regulation 6 – failure of the manager to supply and maintain gas and electricity

Regulation 7 – failure of the manager to maintain the common parts, fixtures fittings and 

Regulation 8 – failure of the manager to maintain living accommodation

Regulation 9 – failure to provide (adequate) waste disposal facilities

Usually by the time they have totted up all this lot, a Landlord of a single house can be staring £20,000 to £50,000 of Civil Penalty Fines in the face.

Not Fit and Proper Person

But that is not all. The chances are very high that they will continue after issuing this letter to declare you to be a Not Fit and Proper Person to hold a licence – they will do this by refusing to grant a licence for your property in your name. If you have other licenced properties they will often issue a Notice to Revoke licences.

Councils can completely destroy your business.

And just for good measure, many councils’ not only make your tenants aware that they can reclaim up to 12 months’ rent from you because you didn’t have a licence when you should have had one. Many Councils even help tenants to fill in the forms.

PACE inverview under caution

If you see ‘helpful’ words in the letter like

“If you would like a meeting to discuss the proposed financial penalty before making your representations, then please contact the xxxxx team so arrangements can be made to meet at the Town/City Hall”

Do NOT make any such arrangements. This is a trick to get you to attend a PACE (Police And Criminal Evidence ACT) interview under caution.

The sole purpose of which is to trick you into self-incrimination 

Get Help ASAP

If you’ve received one of these Housing Act Section 249A and Schedule 13A: Financial Penalties letters you need to act fast because you have very little time before the fines are imposed.

Engage immediate help from experts in Housing Act Legislation and Regulation like ourselves at Landlord Licensing and Defence.

Don’t think that you will be able to get these fines dropped. There is a very low chance of that. As we said above, it’s very easy for a council enforcement officer to find you guilty and you are Guilty until Proven Innocent.

However, what can be done – and we achieve this on a weekly basis – is for us as your representative to negotiate the level of fines with your council. We can do this because we know the legislation and we know from experience HOW to negotiate.

And remember our discussions with the Council do not incriminate you. If you think you can negotiate with them yourself you are totally wrong. Because everything you say can and will be used against you in evidence.

If the is Council declaring you a Not Fit and Proper Person and refusing or withdrawing license we can find solutions that the council will accept  that can save your business from ruin.

Don’t delay – contact us immediately for the help you need.  Time is absolutely of the essence.

The Legal Stuff

Housing Act 2004 Section 249A Financial penalties for certain housing offences in England

(1) The local housing authority may impose a financial penalty on a person if satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the person's conduct amounts to a relevant housing offence in respect of premises in England.

(2) In this section “relevant housing offence” means an offence under—

(a) section 30 (failure to comply with improvement notice),

(b) section 72 (licensing of HMOs),

(c) section 95 (licensing of houses under Part 3),

(d) section 139(7) (failure to comply with overcrowding notice), or

(e) section 234 (management regulations in respect of HMOs).

(3) Only one financial penalty under this section may be imposed on a person in respect of the same conduct.

(4) The amount of a financial penalty imposed under this section is to be determined by the local housing authority, but must not be more than £30,000.

(5) The local housing authority may not impose a financial penalty in respect of any conduct amounting to a relevant housing offence if—

(a) the person has been convicted of the offence in respect of that conduct, or

(b) criminal proceedings for the offence have been instituted against the person in respect of the conduct and the proceedings have not been concluded.

(6) Schedule 13A deals with—

(a) the procedure for imposing financial penalties,

(b) appeals against financial penalties,

(c) enforcement of financial penalties, and

(d) guidance in respect of financial penalties.

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about how local housing authorities are to deal with financial penalties recovered.

(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the amount specified in subsection (4) to reflect changes in the value of money.

(9) For the purposes of this section a person's conduct includes a failure to act.

Housing Act 2004 Schedule 13A Financial penalties under section 249A

1 Before imposing a financial penalty on a person under section 249A the local housing authority must give the person notice of the authority's proposal to do so (a “notice of intent”).

2(1) The notice of intent must be given before the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the first day on which the authority has sufficient evidence of the conduct to which the financial penalty relates.

2(2) But if the person is continuing to engage in the conduct on that day, and the conduct continues beyond the end of that day, the notice of intent may be given—

(a) at any time when the conduct is continuing, or

(b) within the period of 6 months beginning with the last day on which the conduct occurs.

2(3) For the purposes of this paragraph a person's conduct includes a failure to act.

3 The notice of intent must set out—

(a) the amount of the proposed financial penalty,

(b) the reasons for proposing to impose the financial penalty, and

(c) information about the right to make representations under paragraph 4.

Right to make representations

4(1) A person who is given a notice of intent may make written representations to the local housing authority about the proposal to impose a financial penalty.

4(2) Any representations must be made within the period of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the notice was given (“the period for representations”). 

Final notice

5 After the end of the period for representations the local housing authority must—

(a) decide whether to impose a financial penalty on the person, and

(b) if it decides to impose a financial penalty, decide the amount of the penalty.

6 If the authority decides to impose a financial penalty on the person, it must give the person a notice (a “final notice”) imposing that penalty.

7 The final notice must require the penalty to be paid within the period of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the notice was given.

8 The final notice must set out—

(a) the amount of the financial penalty,

(b) the reasons for imposing the penalty,

(c) information about how to pay the penalty,

(d) the period for payment of the penalty,

(e) information about rights of appeal, and

(f) the consequences of failure to comply with the notice.

Withdrawal or amendment of notice

9(1) A local housing authority may at any time—

(a) withdraw a notice of intent or final notice, or

(b) reduce the amount specified in a notice of intent or final notice.

9(2) The power in sub-paragraph (1) is to be exercised by giving notice in writing to the person to whom the notice was given. 

Appeals

10(1) A person to whom a final notice is given may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against—

(a) the decision to impose the penalty, or

(b) the amount of the penalty.

10(2) If a person appeals under this paragraph, the final notice is suspended until the appeal is finally determined or withdrawn.

10(3) An appeal under this paragraph—

(a) is to be a re-hearing of the local housing authority's decision, but

(b) may be determined having regard to matters of which the authority was unaware.

10(4) On an appeal under this paragraph the First-tier Tribunal may confirm, vary or cancel the final notice.

10(5) The final notice may not be varied under sub-paragraph (4) so as to make it impose a financial penalty of more than the local housing authority could have imposed.

Recovery of financial penalty

11(1) This paragraph applies if a person fails to pay the whole or any part of a financial penalty which, in accordance with this Schedule, the person is liable to pay.

11(2) The local housing authority which imposed the financial penalty may recover the penalty or part on the order of the county court as if it were payable under an order of that court.

11(3) In proceedings before the county court for the recovery of a financial penalty or part of a financial penalty, a certificate which is—

(a) signed by the chief finance officer of the local housing authority which imposed the penalty, and

(b) states that the amount due has not been received by a date specified in the certificate,is conclusive evidence of that fact.

11(4) A certificate to that effect and purporting to be so signed is to be treated as being so signed unless the contrary is proved.

11(5) In this paragraph “chief finance officer” has the same meaning as in section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Guidance

12 A local housing authority must have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State about the exercise of its functions under this Schedule or section 249A.

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