David Kirwan, managing partner at Kirwans, says too many landlords don’t realise the possible implications of falling foul of a recent crackdown by local authorities. Tony McDonough reports
Residential landlords across Merseyside are putting themselves at unnecessary risk of harsh penalties and criminal prosecution, a leading lawyer claims.
David Kirwan, managing partner at Kirwans, says too many landlords don’t realise the possible implications of falling foul of a recent crackdown by local authorities on the private rented sector. And he also thinks councils are being “overly harsh”.
Liverpool now has a strict licensing scheme for landlords in operation, as does Sefton and Wirral. And Wirral Council is has started a consultation on proposals to extend selective licensing in certain parts of the borough.
Tough new regulations have correctly been targeted at rogue landlords but well-meaning but inexperienced landlords can also fall foul of the law and sometimes don’t realise how much trouble they could be in.
Mr Kirwan said many landlords don’t realise what is involved when they are invited to an interview under criminal caution (PACE) to discuss their rental property, and are failing to seek legal representation until it’s sometimes too late.
As a result, they can face prosecution and a criminal record, a ban from renting out property or a civil penalty of up to £30,000 for each offence. Sanctions can also include the requirement for the landlord to repay tenants up to 12 months rent for any period during which the property was unregistered.
He explained: “A number of landlords have contacted me seeking legal assistance after a PACE interview has taken place, a criminal prosecution has started or penalties have been imposed.
“Unfortunately, by that point it is sometimes too late to engage with the council and landlords may be left with the options of either appealing to the First Tier Tribunal or to deal with a criminal prosecution in the courts.
“The preferable option, and one which is open to local authorities, is to work with landlords failing to comply, to offer advice and support, educate them about their duties and responsibilities and help to create a reliable pool of landlords instead of imposing swingeing penalties or criminal prosecution.”
Mr Kirwan believes that at a time when the UK faces a critical shortage of homes for rent, local authorities should offer support and educate landlords rather than being too quick to turn to “overly harsh sanctions”.
“Unfortunately, I have not seen a great deal of evidence to suggest that that is happening,” he added.