Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) - a powerful tool to challenge criminal landlords?
A major court ruling in January 2018 has given the green light to the use of Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) for Housing crimes. In the ruling criminal assets obtained by landlords who had been housing tenants in overcrowded and dangerous accommodation, in breach of licensing conditions can be recovered1,2. Criminal landlords can now face substantial confiscation orders which is a significant development, as previous attempts at POCA confiscations had been unsuccessful3. The difference in this case was that it related to breaches in license conditions and management regulations, as opposed to a failure to licence a property. In this landmark case in Brent, up to 31 tenants were found to have been crammed into a filthy and dangerous property whilst the landlord reportedly obtained £6000 per month in rent. It was estimated that two of the defendants had been paid some £180,000 between 2011-2016 far more than any fine on conviction or fixed penalty notice which could be levied.
Brent Council successfully argued that the income derived from the excessive occupation of the property and the financial advantaged obtained by failure to execute works and undertake administration necessary to comply with the 2006 regulations should be considered as financial benefit as a result of criminal behaviour.
These types of cases are not uncommon in London. It is estimated that in some areas up to 20% of rental properties in London are now in the hands of criminal landlords as the potential financial gains from exploiting the most vulnerable tenants are significant.
Licensing has provided Local Authorities with an opportunity to identify these criminal landlords whilst raising the standards of accommodation and protecting the safety of tenants. However, criminal landlords adapt fast and Local Authorities need to keep ahead as shown by this new modus operandi of applying for selective (single household) licenses and then letting them as HMOs.
The challenge for Local Authorities now is how to identify these properties as they are very unlikely to receive complaints from the tenants themselves. Promising results are being seen where Councils are applying data analytics. This has enabled those councils to focus the deployment of scarce enforcement resources very accurately to where Housing crimes are being committed. The Brent case now provides an opportunity for an even greater financial deterrent and Local Authorities should take note of this case and now seek these orders after every conviction for serious breaches in licence conditions and or management regulations.
See the full article here
1Proceeds of Crime Act used for FIRST time against criminal landlords. Barker V, news.rla.org.uk.
2Brent sets legal landmark in slum landlord case. Brent.gov.uk 31/01/18
3Sumal & Sons v London Borough of Newham (2012)
Interested? Read our latest articles.
Behind the scenes – our product development process
Predicting the location of housing crimes - the power of machine learning and property licensing
What if we could predict the time and location of environmental health crimes? This would be a regulator’s dream not unlike the 2002 fantasy Spielberg film Minority Report, in which a specialised police department apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by psychics. Is that fantasy starting to become a reality?Read this article >
Councils need more government support to tackle rogue landlords
The Guardian and ITV News recently uncovered how criminal landlords are exploiting legal loopholes to continue operating, even though they have been convicted and found not fit and proper.Read this article >
Tenure Intelligence (Ti) - Combining artificial intelligence and housing data
Multinational technology companies are not the only ones using big data and computing power to make predictions about the unknown. Councils have seen the benefits of machine learning and are now starting to adopt this approach to make public services more effective and productive.Read this article >
Local government procurement ... why it’s worth the time and effort
Yes, local government procurement can be frustrating, but allow me to share with you some of the golden rules I have picked up over the last 20 years, to help you get your project off to a great start.Read this article >
The building blocks of effective private housing multi-agency enforcement
A minority of landlords across the UK continue to commit housing crimes and expose tenants to life threatening hazards and poor housing conditions.Read this article >
What are the success factors for property licensing schemes?
Lots has been said and written about property licensing as a policy intervention, however there has been little discussion on why some schemes are perceived as a success and why others have struggled.Read this article >
Where have all the Housing EHOs gone?
There’s simply nowhere near enough qualified housing enforcers employed by councils to deal with growing levels of poor housing conditions in the private rented sector (PRS).Read this article >
Change in mandatory licensing
The long-awaited announcement of the change to the mandatory HMO definition, is to be welcomed. This extends mandatory HMO licensing from three-storey properties in multiple occupation to two and one-storey properties.Read this article >
Does property licensing improve property standards?
I’m often asked, does property licensing improve property standards? For most Environmental Health Practitioners regulating PRS standards the answer is simple, yes absolutely!Read this article >