Private sector landlords operating in Cheshire East are being warned of tough new penalties to crack down on poor housing standards.
Cheshire East Council has amended its housing enforcement policy to include new powers, which could see the most serious offenders banned from letting properties altogether or entered on to a national database of rogue landlords.
In addition, landlords will have to ensure their properties comply with a minimum energy efficiency standard or face a fine of up to £5,000.
These new powers add to the enforcement options already available to the council, which include civil penalties of up to £30,000 and rent repayment orders for certain housing offences – both of which were added to the policy in August 2017.
Since last year, the council has issued fines totalling almost £25,000 against five landlords, all of whom had failed to apply for a licence for a house in multiple occupation (HMO).
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, said: "There are many responsible private landlords in Cheshire East, who offer well-managed accommodation that is of a good standard, helping to ensure the welfare of tenants.
"Disappointingly, though, there are a small number who either do not understand their legal responsibilities when providing housing or deliberately ignore their duties.
"This council is committed to challenging poor-quality housing and will proactively work with landlords to improve standards, where they fall short.
"But, where landlords fail to take the necessary action, we will make full use of the enforcement options available to us."
The updated housing enforcement policy now includes a guide for landlords of HMOs, outlining the amenities, property and management standards expected of them and details a stronger 'fit and proper person' test.
It also includes the revised definition of HMOs that require a licence. From 1st October, all HMOs where there are five or more occupants – living in two or more separate households – must be licensed.
Cllr Arnold said: "Operating without a licence is a criminal offence and landlords could face an unlimited fine. That is why we are urging landlords of HMOs, who have not already done so, to apply for one as soon as possible."