West Norfolk Council opposition leader walks out of meeting in landlord row

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The leader of West Norfolk Council’s main opposition group walked out of a cabinet meeting this week in a row over additional powers to target rogue landlords.

Proposals that allow the authority to use civil penalties, rather than criminal prosecutions, to deal with some offences, were supported at the meeting yesterday.

But Labour group leader John Collop argued it was “dangerous” for the council not to seek criminal prosecutions against property owners who flouted the rules.

He also raised concerns about properties being used as houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) without the knowledge of the authorities and tenants potentially being put at risk as a result.

But leader Brian Long insisted the measures related to all rental properties rather than just HMOs.

The meeting became heated when Mr Collop demanded housing portfolio holder Adrian Lawrence answer his question rather than an officer.

Mr Long said the cabinet was not a scrutiny body and, as Mr Collop left, added: “Once you get to understand the constitution you can ask the questions at the appropriate meeting.”

Officials insisted the plans did not stop them from prosecuting criminally and revealed two offences punished through penalties such as rent repayment orders would automatically see landlords placed on a “rogue” register.

Chief executive Ray Harding said: “It’s not about softpedalling on that small minority that put tenants in a dangerous or difficult position. It’s about having an additional tool to deal with these cases and do so speedily.”