Councils not using rogue landlord powers, says report

Only 11% of councils have used powers that were introduced in April 2017 to fine landlords for failing to provide adequate housing.

These are the findings from the Residential Landlord’s Association (RLA), who submitted Freedom of Information requests to every local authority, with 290 responding.

Half reported that they did not even have a policy in place to use them.

The RLA also reviewed Selective Licensing schemes across 32 Local Authorities against complaint and enforcement data, which they believe shows that there was no significant difference in the standards of housing before or after the introduction of the scheme.

They argue that these schemes are ‘to the detriment of good landlords and tenants,’ and local authorities need to engage in ‘targeted enforcement against the criminals that provide unsafe housing.’

In October, NewStart spoke to Gavin Dick of the National Landlord’s Association who said many councils who have already introduced licensing are not carrying out regular inspections and even refusing to prosecute if they have found breaches of the license. He accused councils of wanting to ‘look tough’ rather than tackling the underlying causes of poor quality housing.

We also spoke to Cllr Tracey Hill of Brighton and Hove City Council who argued the council’s ability to address poor quality housing without a licensing scheme has been limited because they currently rely on the tenant to come forward to report issues to the council.

‘A lot of tenants don’t want to do that because they feel vulnerable and they think they might lose their home and they worry that if they were given notice they might not be able to afford to move on,’ she said.

Brighton and Hove will be charging £460 for a five-year license, which she says will be ringfenced so its only used to inspect properties and go after the landlords who are flouting health and safety laws.

‘If we have licensing we could be proactive in addressing property conditions, but without the funding we are having to be reactive,’ she added.

The RLA has called for ‘sustainable funding’ for enforcement departments, using council tax returns to help identify landlords and councils doing more to find and take action against criminal landlords.

David Smith, RLA policy director said: ‘These results show that for all the publicity around bad landlords, a large part of the fault lies with councils who are failing to use the wide range of powers they already have.

‘Too many local authorities fall back on licensing schemes which, as this report proves, actually achieve very little except to add to the costs of the responsible landlords who register.

‘Instead of policing licensing schemes, councils need to focus on finding and taking action criminal landlords.’

Read the RLA report here.

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter


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