Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads

Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads

14:14 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago 64

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There is already more than enough funding and legislation to police the Private Rented Sector.

The last thing we need is more legislation, what everybody wants is enforcement and word on the street is that we could begin to see it before the end of 2013. Ben-Reeve-Lewis

PRS Hit Squads

The authorities all know who the real criminals are and the only reason the criminals are still in business is because those holding power don’t combine resources, in fact they rarely talk to each other. Until now they have all run scared of “data sharing protocols” but when that’s put to one side expect to see some very big cases of criminal landlords being taken to task.

I have heard that PRS Hit Squads will target known criminal landlords between now and Christmas and are supported “in principle” by the likes of Mark Prisk, Boris Johnson and others who openly admit to not being fans of the licensing model being operated in Newham. I’ve also heard that six figure funding for a trial has been agreed at ministerial level.

These “PRS Hit Squads” as I’ve labelled them will comprise of:-

  • Environmental heath
  • HMO licensing
  • Planning
  • Anti social behaviour teams
  • EDF revenue
  • Building contol
  • UKBA
  • Police

The plan is that they will share intelligence and converge on criminal landlords in a military style operation, focussing on the worst operators first of course. With their combined resources the criminals will not stand a chance. It will be like a man with a pea shooter trying to fend off the SAS 🙂

Beware the Spin Doctors!

My hope is that the PR outcome of the PRS Hit Squad successes will be positive and support the need for the model to be extended nationally. It is a very low cost model and the results should save the tax payer money as well as improving peoples lives (unless you are one of the targeted criminals of course!). The last thing the PRS needs is for the successes to be used as justification for more regulation. The spin doctors will see this as an opportunity to justify schemes such as Newham but this must not be allowed to happen.

Landlords can be victims too

Landlords are also the victims of criminals and I have seen some very sad examples of that. A recent case in the Fens involved a landlord who let his former home to a Gang-master. Unbeknown to him the unregulated Gang-master then allowed 20 immigrant farm workers to live in the property, all sleeping on mattresses on the floor. When the landlord found out he obviously wanted them out ASAP, as did the neighbours of pretty culdesac in which the landlords 4 bad detached property was located but the law stood in the way. Had the landlord been able to go to the authorities, secure in the knowledge they would fight for him, it would have been a Godsend to him. Instead, the authorities are threatening the landlord and not the Gangmaster! Clearly common sense isn’t that common.

Let’s hope the PRS Hit Squads are successful in taking down criminals and then lend a much needed helping hand to landlords who are also targeted by criminals. If common sense prevails we might just see more action and less talk. When all is said and done, more is said than done, but fingers crossed let’s hope that not the case here.

The Highland Fling

Earlier this year the Scottish Association of Landlords reported that landlord registration in Scotland has cost landlords £11.2 million in fees while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million. According to the results, since 2006 there have only been 40 rogue landlords identified as operating in Scotland, that’s the number of rejected applications. The cost equates to £400,000 per rogue identified!

Summary

The schemes in Newham and its copycats also show signs of being similar “White Elephants”, therefore I’m pinning my hopes on the PRS Hit Squads taking down as many criminals as possible, proving once and for all that it’s more enforcement not legislation we need. Enforcement not legislation - PRS Hit Squads



Comments

by Mark Alexander

17:49 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "02/10/2013 - 17:17":

Here's what Newham are up to >>> http://www.property118.com/?s=newham&submit=Search+Articles
.

by Jay James

17:57 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "02/10/2013 - 17:49":

Ouch. If that takes place nationally, then I will never enter the PRS as an LL and my property will remain empty when I am away.

by Mark Alexander

18:18 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "02/10/2013 - 17:57":

And if I was affected I'd sell up immediately. If I was in negative equity I would seriously consider bankrupcy as opposed to working under the Nazi style regime imposed in Newham.

by Jay James

18:33 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "02/10/2013 - 18:18":

Did I read right? The council want powers to purchase buy-to let portfolios.
Nazi indeed and nationalisation by the back door.

If I read the lot, will I just get more and more angry?!

I really was trying to see that I had half a chance of making a living from property when I graduate or soon after, but it seems less and less likely

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

18:45 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

For those interested in Newham's figures this is the current state of play:-
Landlords have signed up 30,000 properties
Those who registered before the end of January 2013 only had to pay £150 for a five year licence, those who signed up after that date had to pay the full £500. That is per property by the way
They have sent warning letters to 2,300 properties, half of whom got a licence after the first letter
1 in 5 unlicensed properties contained wanted criminals
They have 67 prosecutions in motion
110 arrests have been made of landlords and tenants
They have issued 43 cautions and £300 fines.

Look at the income generation involved there. The licensing fee brings in £4.5 million @ £150 per property or £15m @ £500 per property, so the truth will be somewhere between those two figures and this doesn’t take into account the amount turned over in fines.

What landlords often misunderstand though is that the rules on selective licensing preclude councils from using this as income generation, they can only pore it back into the licensing scheme itself. Newham has about 40 people in the squad. Greenwich are next out of the traps, earmarking money to employ 18 officers. Several other London authorities are considering their options at the moment but the Newham model isnt as popular as you guys might think, especially among enforcement officers. Read my Friday Newsround on Tessa Shepperson's Landlord Law Blog this week for an interesting anecdote on this very subject.

At a conference I attended recently a colleague in another authority whose council is chewing over the Newham model asked if I had any info that could be used to stop councillors doing it.

It isnt the enforcement officers who are fans of this, its the elected members because it has political appeal to some. Trust me....no enforcement officer I know....and after 23 years in the business as both a TRO and a housing law trainer for other councils I know quite a few, thinks we need more powers. Our individual clout has been denuded by staff cuts for sure but this just means we need to re-group, work smarter not harder and joined-up, multi agency working is how we achieve it.

For years I have tried to get landlords for harassment and illegal eviction, worn out colleagues in Planning try to get them for illegal conversions, frustrated EHOs rattle their works notices sabres but all to limited effect. The time has come to drop this narrow approach.

Elliot Ness and his untouchables tried for years to get Al Capone for murder, extortion, bootlegging, racketeering but all they finally put him away for was tax evasion. Frustrating to an extent but all that mattered really was that he was out of the game.

If my landlords get away with illegal evictions, beating up tenants, ignoring injunctions but get done for mortgage and tax fraud (Which we have in hand - trust me) then so be it

by Jay James

18:53 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

would national cooperation be practical?

by Mark Alexander

18:57 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ben Reeve-Lewis" at "02/10/2013 - 18:45":

I am so pleased I started this thread, others have been more popular but this is without any shadow of a doubt the best ever. What you are doing really is music to my ears Ben - good on you my friend 🙂
.

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

19:03 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "02/10/2013 - 18:53":

Not sure what you mean by that Jay Jay.

I think the beauty of my scheme is that it has the backing of decent landlords everywhere who long for these criminals who give them all a bad name to be taken out, tenants love it, Shelter (should) be behind it as should elected members...whats not to like?

Also it doesnt take millions of pounds to run, it relies on a different way of thinking and working.

There is a flip side too which I am also looking into. Southend on Sea council have a brilliant self-regulation model which is worth checking out. If multi-agency enforcement is the stick then self regulation is a fantastic carrot.

Their landlords and agents agreed to sign up to a scheme where each property has a poster in the window holding a unique registration number so that neighbours or tenants having problems can call a number to get things sorted, which is largely done by the local landlords and agents themselves, who only call in the council's help if things get beyond them.

This has helped bring Southend 5,200 properties to work with. I'm looking to roll something similar out as an adjunct to my "Sweeney" activities.

by Mark Alexander

19:11 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ben Reeve-Lewis" at "02/10/2013 - 19:03":

All we need now Ben is a picture of you dressed up as a Gangster holding a Tommy Gun ....... aaahhhh .... hang on a minute! 😉

I think we have the first poster for the poster campaign LOL
.

by Jay James

19:13 PM, 2nd October 2013, About 8 years ago

mean something like a national hit squad, oops agency, working their way round the country. Suggested because local organisations with geographically over lapping boundaries and their own priorities may lead to each carrying out enforcement activities differently.

Funded by the current spending on enforcement plus whatever of licence fees is not already used for this.


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