Councils need ‘stronger powers’ to tackle rogue landlords

20 Apr 18

Councils need beefed up powers allowing them to confiscate properties from rogue landlords, a group of MPs has urged.

They should also be able to levy more substantial fines for poor quality housing in the private sector, the housing, communities and local government select committee said in a report out yesterday.  

Chair of the committee Clive Betts said: “We believe local authorities should have the power to levy more substantial fines,” adding “local authorities should have the power to confiscate properties from those landlords committing the most egregious offences and whose business model relies on the exploitation of vulnerable people.”

The committee report concluded that punishment of rogue landlords by local authorities has been “too low and inconsistent”, with six out 10 councils not prosecuting a single landlord in 2016.

MPs put the lack of prosecutions down to insufficient resources for local authorities and are calling for a new fund to be established to support enforcement.

While the government has introduced new powers to protect tenants and crack down on rogue landlords, the committee noted that “often there was a financial disincentive to pursue prosecutions against criminal landlords, as the costs of investigation were rarely recovered through the courts.”

The committee pointed to research released by the charity Shelter and polling service YouGov in September 2016, which showed 200,000 out of a sample of 3,250 private renters in England reported they had been abused, threatened or harassed by a landlord.  

It also said the English Housing Survey for 2015-16 estimated there were 800,000 private rented home that have at least one ‘category one’ hazard, such as excess cold, mould or exposed wiring.

In the same survey, 41% of tenants reported they had waited an ‘unreasonably long’ time for a landlord to make repairs they were legally required to carry out.

Alan Ward, Residential Landlords Association chair, suggested that protection for vulnerable tenants was already in place and that landlords end just one in 10 tenancies.

Ward said: “The problem is that over-stretched councils simply do not have the resources to properly use such powers to protect tenants from the minority of landlords, who are criminal and have no place in the sector.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We have given councils stronger powers to crackdown on bad landlords, including fines of up to £30,000 and banning orders.

“We have also introduced stronger protections for tenants themselves, including protection against retaliatory eviction where they have a legitimate complaint.

“We are looking at the select committee’s report and will be responding shortly.”

CIPFA is hosting a breakfast morning to discuss how to fix the broken housing market on 24 April


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