Labour MP Karen Buck is accusing local authorities of taking a ’softly, softly’ approach to rogue letting agents and landlords.
Buck, whose controversial Commons amendment forcing landlords to let homes fit for human habitation was defeated last week, has released her research to The Guardian website.
She says that a survey of 120 local authorities in England found that while councils received 51,916 complaints about poor living conditions - such as cold, damp and overcrowding - housing officers inspected ‘only’ 14,043 homes.
The figures are for 2013 - the latest available - and suggest that councils were more likely to react by sending a letter or making a phone call rather than issuing a legal notice.
On average councils prosecuted fewer than one landlord a year each, according to the website’s report of Buck’s data.
While inspectors identified 4,301 so-called category one hazards, such as excess cold and fire risk, councils only took enforcement action on only 3,550 occasions, it says.
“Far too few of the landlords that let grossly substandard properties can expect to have tough enforcement against them,. The more vulnerable people that go into the private rented sector the more urgent the need for more resources to protect them” says Buck.
Her research - conducted by housing consultant Stephen Battersby - concedes that that council resources have to be taken into account but insists that the authorities’ approach has failed.