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22.01.16

Rogue landlord crackdown across 48 councils with new £5m fund

The government will give 48 councils shares of a £5m fund to tackle rogue landlords by carrying out more raids, increasing property inspections, issuing more statutory notices and demolishing sheds and prohibited buildings.

Unveiled by housing minister Brandon Lewis after touring run-down homes across the country, the fund is designed to empower councils to root out more ‘beds in sheds’ while prosecuting irresponsible landlords.

It is widely accepted that overcrowded and dangerous accommodation can have a ripple effect of wider issues in local communities, including noise problems, sanitation problems for whole roads, greater fire risk, council tax and benefit fraud and anti-social behaviour.

Whitehall has also introduced protection for the tenants themselves against retaliatory eviction where they have a legitimate complaint.

Lewis commented: “Many private rental tenants are happy with their home and the service they receive, but there are still rogue landlords that exploit vulnerable people and force their tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid accommodation.

“We are determined to tackle these rogues which is why we are providing 48 councils with extra funding, so they can get rid of the cowboy operators in their area and bring an end to tenants living in miserable homes in the name of profil.”

Today’s fund is the result of a race launched in November of last year, at which point 65 councils applied for a share of the £5m pot.

Those that have pocketed the most were mostly in London, including the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Enfield, Newham and Waltham Forest - but other councils around England also received shares ranging from £13,161 in Derby to £151,079 in Nottingham.

The LGA largely welcomed the announcement, arguing that councils are the forefront of tackling landlords and thus need the right assistance to mitigate this “growing problem”.

“The private rented sector is growing and, with limited resources and competing funding pressures, councils are working hard to ensure that rogue landlords are dealt with robustly and effectively,” Cllr Peter Box, the association’s housing spokesman, said.

“However, they are too often being hamstrung by an outdated system. It can take more than a year to prosecute a rogue operator and in many cases paltry fines are handed out to criminal landlords.

“Proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill for banning orders for the worst operators in the private rented sector will help councils tackle this issue, as will the flexibility to issue fines to private landlords as an alternative to prosecutions. We will be working with the government to ensure measures in the Bill are properly resourced so councils can make full use of them.”

But Box also argued that councils must be given a lead role in building new affordable rented homes so that those who can’t afford to buy aren’t forced into the expensive private sector. Several of the LGA’s concerns with the Housing & Planning Bill are based on claims that the government’s intention to reform the planning system could destabilise local accountability and democracy.

The association has also previously called for a national database covering all housing-related convictions in order to crack down on postcode landlords switching from one area to another to avoid being licensed.

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