Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s environmental services committee has given its backing to proposed fixed penalty levels for offences committed under a new law designed to make the private rented sector safer and more secure for tenants.
At the committee’s meeting on Tuesday, February 7, councillors were told the local authority is of the view The Private Tenancies Act (NI) 2022 is “a welcome first step in a series of legislative reforms to address some of the issues in the private rented sector i.e. tenancy management, security of tenure, affordability or rent, security and property standards”.
Members were told the act creates new offences for which Council will have powers to issue fixed penalty notices and the amount payable in respect of an offence will be determined by Council. The maximum fine for these offences is £500.
Three of the offences are only applicable to tenancies granted on or after April 1, 2023. These are: the landlord failing to provide tenant a notice in prescribed form with 28 days; the landlord failing to provide tenant with a notice of variation within 28 days after the date which term is varied and failing to comply continues more than 14 days after payment of the fixed penalty notice.
As for notice regarding certain past matters, these fixed penalties are only applicable to tenancies granted on or after June 30, 2011 but before April1 2023.
They are: the landlord failing to provide tenant a notice in prescribed form within 28 days after commencement date (April 1, 2023); a landlord failing to provide a tenant with a notice of variation within 28 days of commencement date (April 1, 2023) and failing to comply continues more than 14 days after payment of fixed penalty notice.
There are also offences concerning rent receipts. These are: landlord/appointed person fails to provide written receipt for cash payment or failings to provide written receipt at time payment is made/as soon as reasonably practicable and failing to provide written receipt for cash payment continues more than 14 days after payment of a fixed penalty notice.
A fixed penalty notice can also be issued if a tenant is required to provide payment of a tenancy deposit in excess of one months rent or a tenancy deposit in excess of one month’s rent is retained.
For all of the offences, £500 is the maximum level of fine Council officers have recommended Council sets.
A report on the matter presented to members of the committee notes Council’s concerns these powers will “increase the duties and demands on the Council’s enforcement resource which has already experienced an increase in demand on housing and statutory nuisance services over recent years”.
It also states the Department for Communities is aware of these concerns but claims there will be “no financial support available at this time to assist councils with these additional powers”. It also notes that while the new fines may provide some additional income it will not “cover any additional staffing and administrative resources required”.
A proposal to accept the officers recommendation to note the new legislative powers and agree the proposed fixed penalty levels was put forward by Alderman Stephen Moutray and seconded by Councillor Lavelle McIlwrath.