There is a burning issue within the rented homes market that is grossly unfair on private landlords and that is never discussed by politicians or the trade associations that operate within it.
The issue is that many local councils who regularly take private landlords to court or fine them over their poor property management practices are all too often themselves guilty of similar crimes and misdemeanours.
One obvious and recent example is Camden Council. It has recently been investigated by the Regulator of Social Housing after it was fined £500,000 over a fatal fire at a Hampstead property in November 2017.
The investigation discovered that over 9,000 fire remedial actions are currently overdue, just under 400 of which were deemed “high-risk”.
Also, a third of the fire safety jobs should have been completed within 10 days and the remainder in 30 days.
This is the same council that only a month ago took a landlord operating an HMO within its boundaries to court over fire safety breaches.
The court heard that the landlord, Monsoon Properties Ltd, had admitted violations relating to a range of issues at the flat in London’s Tavistock Place.
This included inadequate fire detection system, obstructions to the means of escape, defective fire doors, defective oven and hob and smashed wall tiles.
Highbury Corner Magistrates Court fined the landlord £10,000 for each breach of regulations, as well as costs of £7,020 and a £12,000 surcharge – or nearly £50,000 in total.
It seems extraordinary that Camden can be both poacher and game-keeper in this way – although it is not alone in this regard.
Nevertheless, Camden is particularly keen on fining rogue landlords, and last year it announced it had secured four banning orders against four after they were found to be letting an unlicensed and unsafe home in Kilburn.
This is course needs to happen – those who ignore their responsibilities or wilfully dodge them when operating PRS properties should be punished.
But when councils like Camden do the same thing, none of the property managers within their housing teams lose their jobs, do they?
This disparity in levels of justice for the same crimes cannot go on particularly when private landlords already face several other unfair rules such as being taxed on their turnover, not profits, unlike other businesses.
Landlords of all kinds whether in the public or private domain should operate on the same playing field and face the same consequences for illegal or irresponsible behaviour.
And perhaps more importantly, the organisation that chases down bad landlords locally should not be property managers themselves.
We need an independent national housing ‘police force’ backed up by a specialist property court to solve this situation.
Nigel Lewis is the editor of LandlordZONE>