A calculator showing 'penalty' instead of numbers

Civil penalties can be applied separately to both companies and individuals

Where it is possible to apply housing civil penalties, ‘this is the route to go’
02 September 2021 , Katie Coyne

Civil penalties for housing offences can be applied separately to both companies and individual directors, and the maximum £30k penalty can be applied per offence, an Upper Tribunal and Court of Appeal decided earlier this year. Tim Everett has been analysing the effects of the ruling.

Lack of consistency across judgments relating to civil penalties in First-tier Tribunal cases had created uncertainty for local council housing teams.

But the case Sutton v Norwich was heard in the Upper Tier Housing Tribunal where these and other points were clarified and precedent set. Subsequently, they were upheld by the Court of Appeal earlier this year, although the fines in the case were adjusted down slightly.

EHP and legal expert Tim Everett said the ruling made it clear that where it is possible to apply civil penalties “this is the route to go”.

He argued that you must still be able to show that the person could have been convicted of an offence, as that is one of the criteria of the civil penalty legislation, but the fines available are much higher than those achievable in a magistrates’ court.

Everett said: “There had been several cases before this which had gone in different directions. Summed up in the previous cases as it stood, there were at least three different routes you could take, which came to different results.

“What this case does is effectively plump quite clearly for one of those routes, which says 'no you don't work out the penalty first and then divvy it up between the company and the director', you look at both of those in the normal way of things.

“You look at the particular defendant and you look at their means and then you impose the relevant penalty, and you'd obviously look at the nature of the offence – all the usual things you do when sentencing.”

Everett said the case also clarified that the maximum £30k could be applied to each offence. He said: “that's the other point they nailed down. 'No, it's not £30k together for the company and the director. It's £30k for each offence.

“So if the company and the director had both been guilty of several offences then the civil penalty can be imposed for each of them, on both the company and on the director.”

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