The Residential Landlords’ Association has revealed what it calls “worryingly low levels of enforcement of rented housing regulations” by local authorities.
Using Freedom of Information legislation, the RLA has discovered that among the 255 councils that responded just 827 prosecutions had been taken out against landlords over the last five years following notices to improve a property being issued.
The RLA says it would be naive to think that only this number landlords had actually breached their legal obligations over such a long period of time, especially as there are over 140 Acts of Parliament containing over 400 regulations affecting the sector.
The figures stand in stark contrast to the London Borough of Newham which, although it did not submit a response to the RLA’s FoI request, has separately published figures showing that since January 2013 it alone has undertaken 779 prosecutions of landlords.
Since 2013 that council has worked closely with the police, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency to use the wide range of powers already available to root criminal landlords. It has also embarked on a series of high profile raids of properties that are clearly sub-standard or overcrowded.
The RLA now wants a radical nationwide overhaul of the way regulations are enforced, enabling the majority of good landlords to be regulated by robust industry-run schemes, freeing councils to find and punish the criminals who often preying on vulnerable tenants.
“Newham Council shows that with the will and resources councils already have the powers needed to protect tenants from bad landlords. Rather than tinkering around the edges we need a radical overhaul of the way the sector is regulated, freeing councils to find the crooks. The message should be clear to those renting out substandard housing – get it sorted or face the full force of the law” says an RLA spokesman.