The government has said that new funding will be provided to councils to support them in a range of projects designed to “ramp up” action against criminal landlords. This move follows a host of new legislation issued in 2018 to help councils in England tackle rogue landlords.
The extra £2m funding is to be provided as it became increasingly clear that English councils are not using new regulations effectively enough to tackle rogue landlords. It follows a Guardian and ITV News investigation which revealed how convicted property owners are continuing to collect rents – often funded by the taxpayer – despite being ruled unfit to let out a property.
The move is the second response on the issue by government in 2-weeks following the ruling on a previous investigation which will allow tenants access to the government’s new rogue landlord database. The investigation again by The Guardian and ITV News had revealed that not a single name had been entered into the new system in more than six months since it was launch, and previous, even when a landlord’s name was listed, the public could not see them.
This new money, which works out just £6,000 per English council, housing minister Heather Wheeler said:
“This funding will help further strengthen councils’ powers to tackle rogue landlords and ensure that poor-quality homes in their area are improved, making the housing market fairer for everyone. The funding would be used to support a range of projects that “councils have said will help them to ramp up action against criminal landlords – for example, to build relationships with external organisations such as the emergency services, legal services and local housing advocates”.
According to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), the funding will be used for:
- Building relationships with external organisations such as the emergency services, legal services and local housing advocates.
- Some councils will support tenants take action against poor standards, for example through rent repayment orders, and develop digital solutions which will help officers to report back and make decisions quicker.
- The new funding will also be used to encourage councils to share best practice of enforcement action and examples of innovative approaches that are self-sustaining and can be easily adapted to other parts of the country.
Through existing and recently introduced legislation, councils already have a significant tool bag of measures they can use to root out criminal landlords, including:
- Civil Penalties are an alternative to prosecution for a wide variety of offences under the Housing Act 2004. Previously local authorities would have to bring a criminal prosecution, but now for the listed offences, local authorities are able to summarily fine landlords up to £30,000 per Civil Penalty. This includes failure to comply with an improvement notice and offences in relation to the licensing of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
- Banning orders introduced in April this year mean that the landlords who are convicted of specific offences may be banned from renting out accommodation for a period of time. This could range from 12 months to life, with those landlords who receive a banning order being recorded on a national database. Ignoring the order could mean a criminal conviction, up to six months in prison or an unlimited fine.
- Rent Repayment Orders are a means by which a tenant or local authority can seek to have up to 12 months of rent, Housing Benefit, or Universal Credit repaid, usually in addition to other fines.
- Rogue landlord database. This is a nationwide landlord database and is in addition to the London 33 boroughs landlord database.