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Research shows big city council doing 'very little' to police bad landlords

Councils across Greater Manchester are failing to enforce disrepair in the PRS, putting tenants at the mercy of a potential postcode lottery - and highlighting the huge gap in most local authority's ability to police landlords.

Research by Housing Justice Network partners, the Greater Manchester Law Centre and Greater Manchester Tenants Union, reveals that councils received 2,283 reports from private tenants seeking help for disrepair in the year to February, but only served 90 improvement notices – representing 3.9%. Prohibition Notices were only served 26 times (1.1%).

Their report - Tackling disrepair: why enforcement matters - counted 55 staff across Greater Manchester dealing with enforcement and repairs, for a tenant population of more than 1.2 million.

The average number of staff was six, based on Freedom of Information requests to Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham, Salford, Wigan, Bury, Tameside, Manchester, Trafford and Stockport Councils.

Held to account

Housing Justice Network says it is unhelpful that many councils either do not have a policy on how to enforce disrepair, or don’t make their policy public, meaning tenants would struggle to hold them to account.

It says the unevenness of policies, enforcement practices and recording across the region illustrated the need for a more coordinated approach, otherwise enforcement risked becoming a postcode lottery.

“Where funding enforcement is difficult, authorities may be left with too few staff trying to handle growing caseloads. It also incentivises ‘gatekeeping’, where they try to reduce burdens on their services by making it harder to get in touch or access services.”

Repairs

It adds: “Many informal approaches by local authorities do not result in adequate repairs being completed by landlords, meaning that tenants are left living with disrepair and the risk of eviction for reporting.”

The report’s recommendations include more co-operation between authorities to identify landlords who may be breaching their obligations across different boroughs.

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