Cesar De Sousa Melo has become the first named “rogue landlord” in London after Camden Council successfully obtained a four-year banning order against him last week. This blog is therefore intended as a timely reminder about what a banning order is, how they can be obtained and what the consequences of breach may be.
What is a banning order?
Banning orders came into effect from 6 April 2018 and prohibit a person from:
– renting out residential accommodation;
– engaging in letting agency or property management work; and
– holding an HMO licence or a licence granted under a selective licensing scheme.
Banning orders must be imposed for a minimum of 12 months and there is no upper limit. A local authority must put anyone subject to a banning order on the “national database of rogue landlords and agents”: only local authorities can check this database. Instead, the general public can use the “rogue landlord and agent checker” set up by the Greater London Authority (“GLA”) and Mayor of London to check for similar property entries.
What is a banning order offence?
There are 41 separate offences which may constitute a banning order offence. Mr Melo’s offences included: letting several unlicensed HMOs, fire safety issues, general disrepair, inadequate heating and overcrowding (amongst others). Some of the offences were so severe, they put the tenants’ lives in danger. To make matters worse, despite claiming to be the landlord in their tenancy agreements, he was in fact merely sub-letting from the real owners.
Applying for and making a banning order
An application for a banning order may be made by a local authority after a landlord has been convicted of a banning order offence and a notice has been served. It is for the local authority to decide whether to apply. The First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) will decide whether to grant an order and if so, how long it should last. Here, Camden Council applied for a banning order after being tipped off via the GLA and Mayor of London’s website.
Mr Melo’s operation at all the flats has now ceased and they have been made safe. If he failed to comply with the banning order, however, sanctions may include: being prosecuted by the local authority or the police and if convicted, being imprisoned and/or fined, the local authority can impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000 or they can apply for a management order in respect of an HMO to protect the health, safety and welfare of the tenants. In addition, a local authority or tenant could apply for a Rent Repayment Order.
This is a stark reminder that the “rogue landlord database” is a real thing and not just a threat intended to scaremonger those in the sector. Property guardian companies, therefore, need to remember best practices and ensure compliance to mitigate the risk of a banning order; as this would have serious reputational consequences (amongst others). Based on our expertise, we can provide you with a route map of the law to help you with this. Similarly, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a banning order notice or application, we have extensive experience in defending similar applications – please do get in touch.