04 Mar 2021
by Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence
Yes, their incompetence is blatant to those who have to challenge them on a daily basis. The arrogance and aggressive methods are leaving landlords terrified and they produce no evidence because they claim they don’t have to.
You may not want to believe this, but then you don’t deal with as many councils as we do on a daily basis and see the behaviour which would not be any better than a corrupt 1970s style police force that would have existed I believe in my childhood.
Conviction at any cost
When I recall such matters of stories from my childhood about Guildford and Birmingham and framing suspects just because of their association with known criminals, in order to get a conviction at any cost, as I believe happened in the 1970s, it feels very much that our local councils have taken coaching, mentoring, training and apprenticeship tactics from those times and apply them to landlords as if they were thugs, criminals, fraudsters and drug barons.
It is becoming abundantly clear that many local authorities staff their housing departments with incompetent and unqualified staff, carrying out enforcement action. Often times neglecting their duties as required under the law which they must carry out to protect the same occupants they have declared to be protecting by imposing civil penalties. They are leaving properties and taking no action to secure the property against the risk of fire wand dangers to the occupants. They are relying upon the arrogant enforcement process, rather than taking the emergency remedial action that is required on-site, whilst they are there.
This is not narrowed down to just one local authority; we see this constantly across multiple local authorities and of course many landlords are taking the punishment of Civil Penalties as an alternative to prosecution.
Money, money ,money
As their main source of revenue is Landlord Licencing and Civil Financial Penalties, we see these frequently incorrectly applied due to this incompetence.
It is very much clear now that the more the Councils put all their effort into enforcement, the more that they neglect their actual responsibilities under the Housing Act available to them to protect the occupants of properties. In fact, there is growing evidence that they willfully disregard these responsibilities relying on their allegations to motivate action, rather than taking it themselves, all because their efforts are focused on Enforcement aimed at extracting the maximum possible revenue by fining the landlords.
Landlords are being heavily fined for their neglect or negligence to comply with licensing or HMO Management Regulations. This is sometimes fair and reasonable because the landlord has not met their legal duties
When councils find properties where the occupants are in danger – usually and most commonly from lack of fire prevention measures or from bad cases of damp and mould, it is patently obvious that it is not safe for the occupants to continue living there, without immediate action or relocation there is legislation for the Council indicating which actions it MUST take from a selection available, regardless of potential prosecutions or civil penalties that may follow.
The Housing Act 2004 states that when a council finds a property with Category 1 failures under the HHSRS it MUST (not maybe) take immediate enforcement action. And that doesn’t mean issuing fines! – Although they can do that too!
It means depending on the severity, Issuing an Improvement Notice where the residents are not in mortal danger because that would take two months or more to get the problems fixed.
And where it’s really bad, like no fire doors or fire alarms or other fire prevention risks exist: (where occupants are in mortal danger) they must either organise the works immediately themselves or issue a prohibition notice and rehouse the occupants immediately. BUT THIS IS NOT HAPPENING
Occupants in mortal danger
Instead of doing their legal duty, Councils are happily leaving occupants at risk of mortal danger while they organise the paperwork to issue the landlord with Civil Penalties in the £10,000s
Why would the Council look after tenants when the Council can leave them in danger but cash-in £10,000s from the landlord and then persuade the tenants to turn the knife further and go for Rent Repayment Orders for a year’s rent? Why not decimate the landlord, it is easier and will get more respect than saving lives?
They even think that tenants getting money is better than them being safe. That is how corrupt-like some officers have become in order to gain merit, respect and power in their climb up the Local Authority Ladder of Power.
Council Housing Departments under the direction of the chief financial officers are simply chasing the money. They send notes and letters to the landlords with a non-statutory notice about their alleged offence. This circumvents having to do any tenant safety procedures such as the HHSRS. So, it avoids having to make tenants safe – since that would get in the way of squeezing the money out on multiple stackable fines.
They then use non-housing related legislation to demand information from landlords that they are not entitled to under the Housing Act 2004. A bit like the police using anti-terrorism legislation to trap ordinary people. Or like letting the banks that launder £billions in money to be the enforcer to check that everyday honest businesspeople for Anti-Money Laundering.
It’s called abuse of power. (In one Latin American Country – this Abuse of Power carries a minimum 50 to 300 days salary of a fine or 8 years in jail for the public sector worker and if they are fined they also have removal from their job for 8 years in the same field, it certainly focused the mind of the abusers). This country needs to bring in an Abuse of Power Sentencing.
They the Councils are using psychological techniques and well-worded letters coerce landlords into attending Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) interviews under caution where they lead them into self-incrimination, often for things they haven’t actually done. One such case recently they did not caution the suspected landlord until they were halfway through, now they want him to represent and self-incriminate in writing – we soon stopped that. Interestingly the Police Force in that Metropolitan Area had a reputation for Corrupt Police during my childhood too).
And all the time the Councils are perusing this strategy to extract as much money from landlords as they possibly can, they CYNICALLY avoid engaging the procedures that would force them to have do their civic and legal duty to protect tenants, and keep them safe and where necessary rehouse them.
Hypocritical is not a strong enough word for these councils.
They are no better than the landlords who have unsafe properties as they are permitting the matter to continue when they could have stopped it haemorrhaging further. Yet they have the power to fine the landlord while nobody regulates their calculated money-grabbing failure to do their civic and legal duties.
They leave the tenants in danger purely and simply so they can gather in the money. It’s the sort of tyrannical behaviour of tax collectors in the 1500s not what we should expect in the 21st century.
It is time for landlords to rise up against this. We are finding increasingly this scenario in cases we handle for Landlords because of vengeful fines. Time after time we find these abuses of power and dereliction of duty. Again we investigate what the council has failed to do as part of its obligations and use this to win against this excessiveness for our clients.
So often we see that the ‘charges’ against landlords are trumped up.
Like the main picture. Our client was fined £2,500 on this because it was “an electrical hazard likely to cause electrocution of the occupants.” Electrocution means death or extreme injury.
You, I and anyone over the age of 18 months, can see it’s an aerial socket. About as harmful as a slice of bread.
Incompetence? Or malicious misrepresentation?
Because they rely on the fact that most landlords don’t know how to fight them and don’t have the sense to appoint ‘representation’ we at Landlord Licensing & Defence fight like no other and know how to expose these nonsense allegations that the Councils they think they can get away with.
So, looking at the lead picture -we sent the Council a video of someone repeatedly touching all the metal bits of this ‘electrocution risk’ aerial socket and strangely not dying!
Plus, we sent an offer that they couldn’t refuse (that is if they wanted to keep their jobs as a judge at First-tier Tribunal would not be amused).
Another case, they had correctly pursued the landlord for damp and mould, awful hygiene and a collapsed ceiling due to a leak. The fines were issued in excess of £100,000. Bad things but none immediately life-threatening.
A suitably qualified and certified HHSRS Independent inspector (same qualifications a properly qualified Council Enforcement Officer would be expected to have – many don’t have them) Yet the inspector audited the property he found that the place was a total fire hazard and risk to occupants due to fire doors that were so badly fitted they frankly weren’t fire doors and most of the smoke alarms missing. “This house should have been closed down years ago!” was his immediate reaction.
Yet the Council enforcement inspector had ‘failed to notice’ (or maybe failed to write down because then they would have had to close the house instead of simply perusing £100,000+ in fines. Oh, and they’d have had to rehouse the occupants which would have been ‘inconvenient’ for them too.
Yes, and they waited 5 years to enforce, even though they were aware, as they were so busy dealing with other more urgent matters. It is unbelievable.
A trip to the First-tier Tribunal and this will all be exposed.
But I think that, by the time the council has finished being ripped to pieces and dressed down by the relevant Barrister for their incompetence, failure to follow legal procedure and failure to protect tenants, together with some fairly apparent racist motivations (another matter we are seeing more and more by councils) I think they will be forced to withdraw all the civil penalties to avoid their misdemeanours becoming public record.
That is what they do. Almost anything to stop their immoral practices becoming public. Instead they drop all or some of the charges and make the landlord sign a gagging order.
It stinks, doesn’t it?
What we have is councils who appear to answer to no-one in these matters, operating 1970s Jack Regan-style corrupt policing. It is time for landlords to gather together and put these councils up against the one thing they fear: Judicial Review. Yes Landlords 4 Justice will be doing that – a number of very specific influential people in Property are working on this for 2021.
And to demand a new Housing Act with equity – where the councils are responsible to landlords and the public in the same way that landlords are currently responsible to councils. Yes, the Housing Act 2022 is long overdue!
We have to end this corrupt system where the council is the police, judge and jury and gets to keep all the money it can screw out of landlords in ridiculously high licence fees and astronomic fines. In Germany, this would be an illegal system and not permitted.
I mean what could possibly go wrong. Oh wait, it already has.
It is quite frankly, an unbelievably terrible system that we’re in right now.
The time has come for landlords to seek justice against the government. Justice against immoral and rogue tenants, and to seek justice against a system that continues to have tinpot MPs think they should pass new private member’s bills to fine landlords even more. That will bankrupt Landlords and make them homeless and that will all backfire, they haven’t thought past the end of their noses in this one.
Not fit for purpose
Everybody knows that these fines don’t do anything except aggravate landlords to the point of annoyance and often despair.
As has been seen over decades with drink driving offences and speeding offences: The most effective route to stopping both has never been to heavily fine and punish offenders. Hundreds of per cent more effective is to appropriately fine and put them through rehabilitation and education. I know personally rehabilitation in motoring was more effective than large fines and points.
Not only is this far more effective, but these newly educated people also become advocates for doing things properly and advising others of the dangers.
If the current strategy of fining landlords out of existence almost, then getting tenants to further punish them with Rent Repayment Orders, these two things are all about the money and if it isn’t, then what is it? Well, one could conjecture that it is out and out hatred of landlords who provide the housing that councils refuse to build and provide!
The bullying, malevolence and greed of these councils is nothing short of disgusting.
It all started in April 2017 when the government gave the councils the power to just hand out fines like confetti without having to go through the courts and proper process. As most landlords now realise this was simply the start of a regime of illegal taxation.
A new way?
Please remember that bad landlords must be fined and punished, I do believe that bad people who do bad things and don’t provide decent safe housing and should be punished.
I don’t believe for one moment that a £30,000 fine helps a landlord ‘learn and improve’ in the slightest. No, it crucifies many landlords.
What would be better is to maybe charge him a reasonable amount that is punitive and leaves money for the housing corrections and force them to go on a re-education course for 24 months, attending every month.
Then the landlord will gain the education, the knowledge and the improvement and can be assessed for their competence. The Council Officers could sit the same one too, so they cannot enforce, what they do not know unless they have proved their competency as the landlord has.
That way, we would have great housing systems and great landlords and effective, fair and reasonable enforcement motivated by safe housing.
And sadly for the councils, it wouldn’t all be about the money.
It would be about what’s right, what’s safe and what’s best for the tenants they purport to care about.
Out with then incompetents and the subversives
Of course, that’s Utopia as things stand.
What is seen daily is a sickening abuse of power by incompetent and malicious, bullying-like people. They are ‘enforcing by fines’ in a cynical money-grab when they should be enforcing by improvements and protecting tenants at risk.
As we are “Slaying Councils and Rescuing Landlords” an increasing number of people who have worked within the councils, confirm our findings.
Good officers are leaving councils because their moral compasses won‘t let them remain part of this evil cynicism. There is no money and no future for them to whistle-blow when they are working inside these rogue councils.
Landlord Licensing & Defence we WILL whistle-blow whilst “Slaying Councils and Rescuing Landlords”.
Des Taylor and Phil Turtle, the authors, are Principal Consultants at Landlord Licensing and Defence and daily tackle Council nonsense, lies and deceit and those are the good traits! Every so often we also meet great Council Enforcement Officers who have an emphatic approach to Enforcement similar to the London Metropolitan Police Approach to Enforcement in Covid-19 which is:
‘The 4 Es’: Engage. Explain. Encourage. Enforce.
Engage with someone,
Explain how we think they are breaking the rules, and
Encourage them to change their behaviour to reduce the risk to public safety and health.
Enforce if they still do not follow the rules – fining is last on the list and only financially crippling for multiple repeat behaviour
There is a better way and the Councils need to be regulated and act as the police have chosen to. They have a choice to make, to do it voluntarily now or be brought down by law.
We will continue to reveal what needs to be revealed until these out of control public servants are silenced. And the war is ended. One day we wish to Celebrate Victory in Housing Day. VH Day, shall we call it? Luckily, we hope to save lives and rescue landlords and tenants from the neglect of councils in their duty and have them regulated as they should be.
And as we have said many more times before, please read this verse, which we believe we have adapted from Churchill:
We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in London, we shall fight in London, Coventry, Manchester and Birmingham
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our landlords, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight for the HMOs,
we shall fight on for the Buy to Lets,
we shall fight in the side streets and in the main streets,
we shall fight in the towns too
And as for the Council Bullies
We will fight them in the high streets and the housing estates,
We will fight them in the north the south, east and west
Whatever happens we will never rest
Even if it seems a never ender
We shall never surrender
Because – We all need to become Landlords 4 Justice!
Dess Taylor and Phil Turtle
Landlord Licensing and Defence
Get in touch if you need help http://landlordsdefence.co.uk/book
0208 088 0788