You may or may not be aware of Shelter’s Evict Rogue Landlords campaign, which has sought to push local authorities and the government into taking action against rogue landlords. A rogue landlord is someone who is essentially renting out their property in a very poor state of repair, providing unsafe or rundown housing or exploiting tenants who are desperately looking for a roof over their heads. Rogue landlords are the very worst end of the landlord spectrum, preying on those who have been priced out of home ownership and other rental properties and taking rent for conditions that could even be hazardous.
While Shelter has had some success getting the government and councils on board to prosecute and pursue landlords who aren’t providing the most basic of accommodation, it has been difficult. Matters are not helped when simple changes to the law are not made, such as the proposed amendment to the government’s housing and planning bill designed to ensure that all rented accommodation was safe for people to live in. This proposed amendment was defeated by Conservative MPs (37% of whom are landlords…).
However, in January of this year, the government announced a £5 million package that would be shared out among councils to be used to take action against rogue landlords. Split between 48 councils, the income injection works out at just over £100,000 for each council to put additional resources into tackling those landlords who are allowing tenants to live in squalid conditions. While not an enormous figure, it should help boost local authorities’ abilities to carry out inspections and to prosecute those landlords who are providing substandard accommodation. The focus for many councils in recent years has been tracking down those landlords who are essentially offering ‘beds in sheds’ and since 2011 nearly 3,000 landlords have faced either prosecution or additional action. Hopefully, this figure will now increase with the money funding an increase in property inspections, more raids, the issuing of more statutory notices, street surveys and to allowing councils to demolish sheds and prohibited buildings.
The new funding is part of the aforementioned Housing and Planning Bill, which also includes plans for the establishment of a database of rogue landlords and property agents who have been convicted of certain offences, something we think is sorely needed given that bad agents and landlords currently get away with poor and unprofessional behaviour with very few consequences. The Bill also includes the option for civil penalties of up to £30,000 for rogue landlords, as an alternative to prosecution, and Rent Repayment Orders will be extended to cover issues such as illegal eviction.
Of course all of this depends on the detail – how difficult will it be to apply these sanctions to a rogue landlord and will tenants face consequences? We’d like to suggest to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis a national register of landlords, with the amount of rent a landlord can charge dependent on reviews they have received from former tenants – wouldn’t that make the lettings market a much more equitable place…(we won’t hold our breath).