The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wants is introducing a new qualification and training for borough council housing enforcement officers to clamp down on what he calls ‘rogue agents’.
He wants the amount that tenants can claim back if their home isn’t up to scratch doubled, to two years' worth of rent, for the worst properties which pose a risk of death or serious injury.
For London tenants paying the average rent of £1,425 a month this could mean a pay-out of up to £34,000 for the worst landlords.
The mayor has also repeated his call to be given the power to introduce rent controls in London.
Khan claims that 18 per cent of privately rented homes in the capital fail the government’s Decent Homes standard and says private renters in London are disproportionately likely to be defined as ‘vulnerable’.
The new course for borough council officers is called the Advanced Professional Certificate in Private Sector Housing, and is a foundation degree level qualification delivered by the University of Middlesex and accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
The aim of the course is to train those with little or no experience in environmental health or private rental housing up to the standard needed to carry out the duties of a private rented sector enforcement officer to tackle rogue landlords.
This is all part of what Khan calls his ‘Better Renting Programme’, which aims to build skills and capacity across the capital’s PRS enforcement teams.
To date, 265 officers have been trained in courses commissioned by the Greater London Assembly including tenancy sustainment, supporting tenants in domestic abuse cases, and gathering evidence for prosecutions.
Learners studying the qualification spend time both in the classroom and working in borough enforcement teams as environmental health officers. They also develop ‘tenancy sustainment skills’ to allow them to mediate and resolve issues between landlords and tenants and better support tenants facing evictions and potential homelessness.
Khan says: “Every single Londoner deserves a secure, safe and comfortable home. Nearly a fifth of London’s private rented accommodation doesn’t meet basic standards and it is clear that more needs to be done to support tenants.
“I want to see tougher penalties for rogue operators and this action can only come from the government.
“Poor housing conditions and exploitative rents have an awful impact on both the physical and mental health of tenants and these actions need to have consequences. With the cost-of-living spiralling, Londoners also need the government to give us the power to bring in rent controls which may’s election gave us a clear mandate for.
“I also want to see boroughs empowered to stand up for tenants. This new qualification will give councils across London the workforce and expertise to mediate disputes, enforce standards and crack down on the rogues who give the many honest operators in the sector a bad name.”