Extra money to help councils tackle rogue landlords is all very well, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), but the real answer lies in allowing local authorities to build a genuinely affordable alternative to the private rented sector offer.
The organisation was responding to an announcement by the Government last week that 48 councils had succeeded in their bid for a share of a £5 million pot to help them tackle rogue landlords letting out poor quality homes.
“Councils are at the forefront of tackling rogue landlords and the announcement of this funding will assist councils who have been increasingly affected by the growing problem, and will help towards bringing the system for prosecuting rogue landlords into the 21st century,” said Councillor Peter Box, the LGA’s housing spokesperson.
“The private rented sector is growing and, with limited resources and competing funding pressures, councils are working hard to ensure that rogue landlords are dealt with robustly and effectively. However, they are too often being hamstrung by an outdated system. It can take more than a year to prosecute a rogue operator and in many cases paltry fines are handed out to criminal landlords.
“Proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill for banning orders for the worst operators in the private rented sector will help councils tackle this issue, as will the flexibility to issue fines to private landlords as an alternative to prosecutions. We will be working with the Government to ensure measures in the Bill are properly resourced so councils can make full use of them.
“Our chronic housing crisis is making it easier for bad landlords to exploit tenants. Councils must be given a lead role in building new affordable rented homes so that people who can’t afford to buy are not forced into the more expensive private rented sector.”
Property consultancy Daniel Watney said the Government’s approach towards private landlords risks hurting tenants because its “stigmatisation” of the buy-to-let sector may “force landlords to withdraw at a time when rental demand is soaring”.
“No one doubts the need to tackle criminal landlords and those who do genuinely makes their tenants’ lives a misery. But these landlords are a tiny minority. The fact is the vast majority of them provide a valuable service in return for a deserved top-up to their income,” said the firm’s head of residential, Julian Goddard.
“By stigmatising landlords, the government risks pushing many out of the market, reducing the supply of available properties when demand for rental accommodation is at an all time high.
“If the government was serious about fixing the PRS, it would instead focus on better informing tenants of their rights, promoting accreditation of letting agents, and encouraging more institutional investment in the sector.”
Bob Mayho, principal policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), said: “The funds from the Government to tackle rogue landlords is a step in the right direction. £5million, however, is a relatively small amount of money and really only scratches at the surface of what is a much bigger problem.
“Sharing funds across 48 councils is also commendable but there appears to be no intelligence provided from the Government about why these particular councils were chosen and what criteria was involved. We would like to see the Government take a more structured approach next time to target problem areas and fund solutions, which in-turn will help cash-strapped councils plan their resources effectively.
“It is important to stress that it’s a small minority of landlords who provide poor housing, which can lead to physical health problems and poor mental wellbeing. We will continue to work with the Government on housing issues, as well as liaise with our local authorities colleagues receiving this new funding to gauge their experiences.”