A Labour council which has become famous for its critical approach to the private rental sector has now been given almost £200,000 by the Conservative government to continue its campaign.
Bristol council is to receive the public money from the Controlling Migration Fund “to step up enforcement action against landlords that exploit vulnerable migrants.”
This will be operated through a council division called the ‘Rogue Landlord Unit’ which will inform tenants of their rights and how to ensure that their homes are safe to live in and well-managed.
“The team also targets organisations and agents to enforce property standards and takes action against illegal eviction and serious harassment of tenants, as well as dealing with private housing trading standards offences” says a council statement.
The RLU will also work with community groups and a mediation service “to help tenants remedy their rights without going to court and are developing a social media campaign to raise the profile of their work.”
The Controlling Migration Fund was announced by the Theresa May government in November 2016 to support local areas facing pressures linked to recent immigration.
More than £100m has been earmarked for specific projects to date.
Earlier this year Bristol council proposed an HMO licensing scheme covering 12 wards, including the entire city centre; the likely fee for the five year licence would be £1,200 - believed to be one of the most expensive in the UK - and involves a 38-point ‘test’ which has to be passed by applicants.
In 2016 and again the following year Bristol council promoted a voluntary ‘West of England Rental Standard’ which was a voluntary scheme setting out standards for landlords and letting agents in the private rented sector.
It had been launched following meetings between representatives from landlord, agents and tenant bodies. Participants included Acorn, an activists’ group which has held protests outside letting agents’ offices in the city.