Councils across England are failing to use Rent Repayment Order powers to tackle bad landlords in the private rented sector.
Figures given in a parliamentary answer reveal that during the 18 months until the end of September 2018 just three Rent Repayment Orders had been made by local authorities.
Where the rent is paid directly by a tenant, they have the same rights as councils to apply for a Rent Repayment Order – and 18 have been made over the same period.
Since April 2017 it has been possible for councils 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.
Tenants who pay their rent directly have the same rights.
Offences include those related to the licensing of rented property, a failure by a landlord to comply with an Improvement Notice, seeking to evict tenants illegally or engaging in harassing behaviour.
Research by the RLA has already shown councils are failing to use new powers they have to fine landlords up to £30,000 for failing to provide acceptable housing.
The new civil penalty powers were introduced in April 2017, and Freedom of Information requests by the RLA have found that in 2017/18, 89 per cent of local authorities did not use these new powers. Half 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.”