New Powers To Fine Rogue Landlords
More than half the councils in London failed to use new powers to fine rogue landlords last year, leading to criticism town halls are not doing enough to protect vulnerable tenants in “deathtrap” homes.
Only nine of the 33 local authorities issued civil penalties in the 2017/18 financial year, according to figures obtained via Freedom of Information.
A further four did not provide figures, but 20 admitted that they had not issued a single fine during the 12-month period.
These included Housing Secretary James Brokenshire’s local council Bexley, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s home borough of Islington.
New powers to fine rogue landlords were introduced in April 2017 to give housing officers a quicker and cheaper alternative to full-scale criminal prosecution of landlords breaking the law by failing to fix problems such as damp, mould or unsafe wiring.
They allow local authorities to fine landlords up to £30,000 and keep the penalties to fund further enforcement action.
However, to date, only a handful in London have made use of the legislation, led by Newham, which issued 95 civil penalties, Waltham Forest, which handed out 56, Camden (43) and Barking & Dagenham (40).
The same FoI request also showed that the number of criminal prosecutions of landlords fell to its lowest level in six years.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, which collected the information, said: “Either the number of problem landlords is not as high as some suggest, or councils have been unable to enforce the extensive range of powers they already have.
“This proves that it is not more regulation that is needed but better enforcement of existing laws.”
Potentially thousands of tenants are falling victim to rogue landlords. For example a three-bedroom property in Newham, dubbed a “house of horrors”, was found to have exposed electrical wiring, rotten floorboards and missing ceilings.
It was let out to a family with two young children for £700 a month. Darren Rodwell, of London Councils, which represents local government in the capital, said: “The 63 per cent funding reduction experienced by London boroughs has had an impact on our ability to respond to residents’ needs.”
Last year the Government made an extra £2 million of funding available to local authorities in England to help tackle rogue landlords.