Nearly two-thirds of councils with selective licensing schemes don’t accurately record the number of complaints they get about private rented housing.

New National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) research reveals that 56% of councils aren’t properly recording these complaints, which rises to 61% for those with licensing schemes – despite the fact local landlords are supposedly funding housing standards enforcement through their licensing fees.

The report – The Enforcement Lottery: Local authority inspections and notices – says: “Landlords have a reasonable expectation that these schemes provide evidence they are working to address issues with property management.

“But more than half of schemes do not appear to keep accurate records. As a result, it is unclear how these local authorities are identifying progress in improving property management.”

FOI requests

The findings, based on Freedom of Information Act requests, show that of those local authorities which did accurately record PRS complaints, each dealt with an average of 274 complaints per year.

In all, councils conducted 98,858 inspections under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHRS) across England between 2018 to 2021, the equivalent of just one in 45 private rented sector properties.

Many councils fail to register any of their inspections, while only 1% resulted in a follow-up prosecution, with 4% of improvement notices resulting in a civil penalty.

Chris Norris, NRLA director, policy & campaigns (pictured), says these figures show there is a long way to go before councils deal effectively with the rogue landlords who bring the sector into disrepute.

He adds: “Until they adopt a more effective approach towards recordkeeping, it will be impossible for them to take the steps necessary to enforce regulations.”

The NRLA wants the government to look again at a national benchmark scheme for local authorities, requiring them to report on the outcomes of all enforcement activities. It also wants it to work with local authorities to identify why inspections rarely lead to prosecutions or civil penalties and to develop a holistic strategy around enforcement in the PRS.

Download the report.

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