Creation of Civil Penalty Policy 2023-2026
Further to the minute 13, the Private Sector Housing Manager advised that Gravesham did not currently have a Civil Penalties Policy and the details around it sat within the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy under an appendix ‘Policy for imposing financial penalties under the Housing Act 2004 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016’.
The Committee was informed that the Civil Penalties Policy was largely based on the Housing and Planning Act 2016; this legislation was large and covered multiple elements. Due to the volume and content of work and the complexity of it, it was felt that the Civil Penalties Policy should be a dedicated standalone policy and this was also good practice. Therefore, the 17-page appendix ‘Policy for imposing financial penalties under the Housing Act 2004 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016’ would be removed from the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy however the Civil Penalties Policy would be linked and cited within that policy.
The Private Sector Housing Manager advised that the Council was required to have a policy in place to determine when to prosecute and issue a civil penalty. To do this, the Council must have regard to statutory guidance issued by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The guidance sets out the factors that the Council must consider as part of the financial penalty setting process. The policy must ensure proportionality, transparency and consistency. Civil penalty was an alternative to prosecution under the Housing Act 2004 and the policy set out when the Council will impose a civil penalty notice and how it will determine the penalty amount.
The Committee was informed that the Private Sector Housing Team had successfully issued the authority’s first civil penalty notices for housing related offences. This included two cases equating to £16,825. With recovery of financial fines underway, the income had been ringfenced under regulation 19 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Funds recovered will allow the Private Sector Housing Team to reinvest into further enforcement and education activity.
The Private Sector Housing Manager reiterated that that the service will continue to advance in enforcement action which will require robust, modern policies and failsafe procedures as far as reasonably practicable. The Council should be seen to be both creative and proactive in the delivery of the Private Sector Housing Service. Whilst the initial stance of the Council will be to resolve informally, the Council needs to have the correct tools in place to effectively enforce where necessary.
The Committee considered the standalone Civil Penalty Policy 2023, which was formally part of the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy, and highlighted the following:-
· as highlighted within minute 13, this policy also refers to first-tier tribunals, if a tribunal was upheld and the defendants were awarded costs, does the Council have a contingency in place to cover these costs. Also, would the Council’s Legal Team be involved in the tribunal or would external support/advice be sought as all policies/processes must meet the resources available in-house; and
· in relation to the database of rogue landlords and property agents, why was the threshold set at two or more civil penalties over a 12-month period; this should be one and should also be based on the severity. The Private Sector Housing Manager advised that she would consider this further and update the wording.
Due to the Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy and the Civil Penalty Policy being closely linked, the items were discussed in conjunction with one another therefore minutes 13 and 14 should be read in conjunction so that all areas raised can be updated within the appropriate policies.
The Committee discussed and provided its feedback (as above) on the Civil Penalty Policy 2023 prior to it being ratified by the Cabinet Member for Housing Services.
- Cabinet Report Civil Penalty Policy, item 14. PDF 268 KB
- Civil Penalties Policy Accessible, item 14. PDF 466 KB