When new government regulations come into force later this year, councils will be able, instead of a long wait to get rogue landlords into court, to issue fixed penalty notices of up to £30,000 for failing to comply with improvement and overcrowding notices, as well as apply banning orders.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is now calling on central government to close what it sees as a legal loophole that is allowing landlords to convert their properties into multiple “tiny units”. Multiple self-contained flats within a house can secure a landlord the maximum level of income often through housing benefit payments.
According to figures quoted by ThePlanner.co.uk, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute, private landlords received £4.6 billion in housing benefit in 2006, which by 2015 had risen to £9.3 billion.
Conveniently ignoring the fact that much of this is money diverted from spending on council housing, where many councils are now relying on private landlords to take over from councils on social housing, The LGA says the micro sub-division of properties, they call the Lockdown model, is contributing to this increase.
This loophole, says the LGA, results in “widespread abuse of taxpayers’ money” with tenants “living in poor and often dangerous accommodation”. Currently, it seems, homes can be converted into a maximum of six small self-contained studios with en-suite showers and portable cooking equipment without planning permission.
The LGA says:
“Councils need streamlined housing and planning powers to stop landlords converting properties into ‘micro flats’ without planning permission to protect tenants.”
The organisation also would like to see more jail sentences for the worst landlords, which would be, they say, “more effective at keeping them out of the game than issuing a fine.”
Judith Blake, LGA housing spokesperson, told The Planner:
“No landlord can act outside the law and councils will do everything in their powers to ensure tenants can live in rented properties safe in the knowledge that local authorities are there to protect them.”
She said the reputations of good landlords are being “tarnished” by the bad ones and councils are being let down by the current system.
“Legislation needs to be more joined-up to prevent some landlords taking advantage of people at the sharp end of our housing crisis.
Blake puts the argument for more council housing once again by stating that:
“Giving councils powers to be able to build more affordable homes is likely to be more successful at meeting necessary standards than the private rental sector, and help reduce the risk of tenants falling victim to potentially tragic and preventable consequences due to unscrupulous landlords.”
Councils question multi-occupation conversions https://t.co/TaKuUiWiO4
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) April 12, 2017