New figures from a leading trade body suggest that councils across England have cut by a quarter the amount they are spending on dealing with rogue operators in the private rental sector compared with a decade ago.
According to the Residential Landlords Association, whilst spending by local authorities in England on ‘housing standards activities’ was £44.5m in 2009/10, by 2017/18 that had fallen to £33.5m, a drop of £11m.
With over 150 Acts of Parliament containing more than 400 regulations affecting the private rented sector, the RLA is arguing that better enforcement of these laws - backed up by greater funding - is key to driving out the minority of rogue operators who can make life a misery for tenants and bring the sector into disrepute.
The government recently made £2m available for councils to tackle problem landlords, but the RLA does not believe that one-off pots of money provides the certainty for councils to be able to plan long term for enforcement action.
New civil penalty powers enable councils to keep the proceeds of fines levied on landlords who are breaking the law and use this money for further enforcement.
The problem, the association says, is that councils don’t have the resources to kick start the process by taking the action against criminal landlords that then leads to fines generating funding for further action.
The RLA is calling on the government to provide in its forthcoming spending review a multi-year funding package to support initial enforcement action.
RLA policy manager John Stewart says: “Criminal landlords undermine the reputation of the decent majority, cause tenants to suffer and have no place in the sector.
“Local authorities must have the funds they need to properly enforce the wide range of powers they already have to tackle sub-standard housing and criminal behaviour. Our analysis shows that for all the warm words, councils are in desperate need of new funding to ensure this happens.
“The government should use the spending review to address this as a matter of urgency.”