Bad landlords should face tougher penalties in the courts because they are getting away with allowing tenants to live in unsafe and dirty conditions, according to a local government report.
Many local authorities believe some landlords consider fines as running costs for their businesses and deliberately let their properties fall into a bad state of repair.
A study by the Local Government Association (LGA) cites one case of a landlord fined just £120 for ignoring orders to upgrade a house in multiple occupation (HMO) with fire alarms and safety equipment demanded by law.
The survey revealed that 75% of HMO landlords who flouted health and safety laws paid fines of no more than £5,000, while some of the landlords were making thousands of pounds a week from rents from portfolios of 100 or more properties.
A hard core section of Britain’s thousands of HMO landlords ignore licensing and safety laws. On average between 400 and 500 a year face the courts out of Britain’s up to 2 million private landlords.
The LGA, a body representing 400 councils in England and Wales, claims taking a bad landlord to court can take up to 16 months.
Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: “Fines were often little more than a slap on the wrist. The current system for prosecuting rogue landlords is not fit for purpose. Criminal landlords are exploiting this and endangering the lives of tenants.”
Councils gave the LGA a catalogue of nightmare stories about bad landlords, including details of homes without secure front doors, tenants who found strangers sleeping their rented houses and a fire escape that led to a drop of three floors.
Housing minister Kris Hopkins said: “We are determined to tackle the minority of landlords who offer tenants a poor service. That’s why we have given £6.7 million to councils to use their powers to confront rogue behaviour, and why we’re changing the law to increase fines.”