According to the Local Government Association (LGA), more money to help councils combat rogue landlords is fine, but the real solution lies in allowing local governments to build a truly affordable alternative to the private rented sector offer.
The organisation was responding to the Government’s announcement last week that 48 councils had been successful in their bid for a share of a £5 million pot to help them combat rogue landlords who rent out substandard housing.
“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, as well as help bring the system for prosecuting rogue landlords into the twenty-first century,” said Councillor Peter Box, the LGA’s housing spokesperson.
“The private rented sector is expanding, and councils are working hard to ensure that rogue landlords are dealt with robustly and effectively, despite limited resources and competing funding pressures.” However, they are frequently hampered by an antiquated system. It can take more than a year to prosecute a rogue operator, and in many cases, criminal landlords are given paltry fines.
“Proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill for banning orders for the worst operators in the private rented sector, as well as the flexibility to issue fines to private landlords as an alternative to prosecutions, will assist councils in addressing this issue.” We will work with the government to ensure that the measures in the Bill are adequately resourced so that councils can fully utilise them.
“Due to our chronic housing crisis, bad landlords are finding it easier to exploit tenants.” Councils must take the lead in developing new affordable rented housing so that people who cannot afford to buy are not forced into the more expensive private rented sector.”
The Government’s approach to private landlords, according to property consultancy Daniel Watney, risks harming tenants because it “stigmatises” the buy-to-let sector, forcing landlords to “withdraw at a time when rental demand is soaring.”
“No one can deny the importance of prosecuting criminal landlords and those who genuinely make their tenants’ lives miserable.” However, these landlords constitute a tiny minority. “The fact is that the vast majority of them provide a valuable service in exchange for a well-deserved boost to their income,” said Julian Goddard, the firm’s head of residential.
“By stigmatising landlords, the government risks driving many out of the market and reducing the supply of available properties at a time when demand for rental housing is at an all-time high.”
“If the government was serious about fixing the PRS, it would instead prioritise better informing tenants of their rights, promoting letting agent accreditation, and encouraging more institutional investment in the sector.”
“The funds from the Government to combat rogue landlords are a step in the right direction,” said Bob Mayho, principal policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). However, £5 million is a relatively small sum of money that only scratches the surface of a much larger problem.
“Sharing funds across 48 councils is also commendable, but the Government appears to have provided no intelligence on why these specific councils were chosen and what criteria were involved.” We would like to see the government take a more systematic approach to identifying problem areas and funding solutions in the future, which will help cash-strapped councils plan their resources more effectively.
“It is critical to emphasise that poor housing is provided by a small minority of landlords, 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 with our colleagues in local governments who are receiving this new funding, to gauge their experiences.”