Despite the introduction of countless new laws to help councils tackle rogue private landlords, they are still letting down tenants who are housed in below standard and in many cases unsafe accommodation.
A new and powerful tool available to local authority housing officers is the “Rent Repayment Order”, but evidence produced by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) shows that Councils across England are failing to use the extra powers they have been given to tackle bad landlords.
A recent parliamentary question and answer revealed that during the 18 months to the end of September 2018 just three Rent Repayment Orders had been made by local authorities across the country.
Where the rent is paid to the landlord directly by a tenant, the tenant now has the same rights as councils, that is, to apply for a Rent Repayment Order. Apparently, 18 tenant applications have been made over the same period.
Since April 2017 councils have had this same power to reclaim up to 12 months of rent from private landlords for a range of offences in instances where rent was paid through Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.
Other offences relate to the licensing of rented property, failing to comply with an Improvement Notice, and seeking to evict tenants illegally or engaging in harassing behaviour.
In the time since the new civil penalty powers were introduced in April 2017, RLA research has shown that councils are already failing to use their new powers to fine landlords up to £30,000 for failing to provide acceptable housing.
Freedom of Information requests by the RLA have found that in 2017/18, nine out of ten (89 per cent) of local authorities did not use these new powers. Half, say the RLA, reported that they did not even have a policy in place to use them.
David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Councils are failing tenants and good landlords.
“For all the talk about them needing new powers, the reality is that many are not properly using the wide range of powers they already have to drive out criminal landlords.
“Laws without proper enforcement mean nothing. It is time for councils to start acting against the crooks.”