Local councils are to receive a £5m boost to their funding to help them tackle rogue landlords, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis announced last Friday.
The extra funding is to be divided among 48 councils to enable them to tackle those landlords who operate on the fringes of legality, providing accommodation which is squalid and dangerous.
In some locations hundreds of “beds in shed” type housing has been accumulating which councils need to target with sustained raids and inspections, and in the worst cases, demolish the offending buildings. In some authorities the councils has no idea of the make-up of housing in terms of the owner v renting sector, so increasing street surveys will be one of the vehicles by which this problem can be tackled.
The housing minister has been under pressure from landlord bodies and responsible landlords to do something about the rogues. The minister has emphasised the negative impact this type of housing is having on society: noise, poor sanitation, fire risks, and anti-social behaviour.
The new funding comes along with a host of new rules and regulations in the soon to be passed Housing and Planning Bill, which is designed to protect private tenants and route out the rogue landlords. One of the main measures will be the compilation of a database of those landlords and letting agents convicted of certain offences, along with banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders.
Mr Lewis said:
“Many private rental tenants are happy with their home and the service they receive, but there are still rogue landlords that exploit vulnerable people and force their tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid accommodation.
“We are determined to tackle these rogues which is why we are providing 48 councils with extra funding, so they can get rid of the cowboy operators in their area and bring an end to tenants living in miserable homes in the name of profit.
“We also want to raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation across the sector. The funding will ensure tenants know what level of service they can expect and have confidence to get help and take action if things go wrong.”
Cllr Peter Box, Local Government Association Housing (LGA) spokesman, said of the initiative:
“Councils are at the forefront of tackling rogue landlords and the announcement of this funding will assist councils who have been increasingly affected by the growing problem, and will help towards bringing the system for prosecuting rogue landlords into the 21st century.
“The private rented sector is growing and, with limited resources and competing funding pressures, councils are working hard to ensure that rogue landlords are dealt with robustly and effectively. However, they are too often being hamstrung by an outdated system. It can take more than a year to prosecute a rogue operator and in many cases paltry fines are handed out to criminal landlords.
“Proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill for banning orders for the worst operators in the private rented sector will help councils tackle this issue, as will the flexibility to issue fines to private landlords as an alternative to prosecutions. We will be working with the Government to ensure measures in the Bill are properly resourced so councils can make full use of them.”