Letting agents who fail to obtain licences for rented properties that fall under selective licensing rules could be held jointly accountable with the landlords, says David Kirwan (below), from Kirwans law firm.
He said that agents could be prosecuted either alongside or instead of landlords for failing to license properties on their books, and warned that a conviction could result in crippling fines and a criminal record.
“Councils such as Liverpool have made it clear that they will go after managing agents that they deem to be flouting the rules and will not hesitate to prosecute where they feel it is appropriate,” he says.
In September 2018, a managing agent was fined almost £4,000 and handed a criminal record under selective licensing laws after pleading guilty to renting out 12 properties without a licence from Liverpool City Council.
At that point, the council was reported to have served 1,700 legal notices since the city’s Landlord Licensing scheme had begun in April 2015 and was at the time considering almost 1,300 cases for prosecution.
In addition, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the National Landlords Association made earlier this year revealed that Liverpool City Council was the front-runner when it came to prosecuting letting agents, with a total of 13 prosecuted in the four-year period between 2014/15 to 2017/18.
By comparison, 53 per cent of the 20 councils questioned had not prosecuted any letting agents, while a further 32 per cent had prosecuted three or less.
However Liverpool is not the only council to have pursued letting agents under selective licensing rules; in May this year, a landlord and their managing agent were ordered by Canterbury magistrates to pay a fine of £1,000, in addition to costs of £120 and a victim surcharge of £100 for renting out flats without a selective licence from Thanet District Council.
Read more about select licensing.