Radical action is needed to protect tenants from the grip of criminal landlords, as new data points to worryingly low levels of enforcement of rented housing regulations by local authorities.
According to Freedom of Information data, collected by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), among the 255 councils that responded, just 827 prosecutions had been taken out against landlords over the last five years following notices to improve a property being issued.
The RLA is not so naive as to believe that so few landlords breached their legal obligations over such a long period of time. Research has shown that there are over 140 Acts of Parliament containing over 400 regulations affecting the sector.
The national figures stand in stark contract to those recorded in the London Borough of Newham. Newham, which failed to respond to the FoI request, has published its own data claiming that since January 2013 it alone has undertaken 779 prosecutions against landlords.
Since 2013 the council has worked closely with the police, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency to use the wide range of powers already available to root out criminal landlords. It has also embarked on a series of high profile raids of properties that are clearly sub-standard or overcrowded.
The RLA is calling for a radical national overhaul of the way regulations are enforced, enabling the majority of good landlords to be regulated by robust industry-run schemes, freeing councils to find and punish the criminals who are often preying on vulnerable tenants.
Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association said:
“Tenants and good landlords are being let down by a system unable to cope with the powers already available to root out the crooks.
“Unsafe and insanitary housing has no place in the 21st century – those responsible put the lives of their tenants in jeopardy. It angers the majority of decent landlords who enjoy good relations with their tenants.
“Newham Council shows that with the will and resources councils already have the powers needed to protect tenants from bad landlords.
“Rather than tinkering around the edges we need a radical overhaul of the way the sector is regulated, freeing councils to find the crooks. The message should be clear to those renting out substandard housing – get it sorted or face the full force of the law.”
For details of the Newham prosecutions click here.