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Councils need greater powers to tackle rogue landlords – LGA

Councils need greater powers to tackle the growing number of rogue landlords who force tenants to live in sub-standard housing, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales. 

The Association noted that councils work with many good private landlords, but it is imperative they have the ability tackle the minority of criminal landlords. 

At the moment it is a difficult process for local authorities to set up licensing schemes, which have the power to identify and deal with rogue landlords. 

Selective licensing can only currently be applied where there is low demand for housing or persistent problems caused by anti-social behaviour. But the LGA wants to see the government's criteria widened to include areas which have a high proportion of badly managed private properties and homes in a poor condition. 

Housing minister Kris Hopkins MP told PSE that the government has already given councils strong powers to crack down on rogue landlords, including the right to inspect properties, require improvements or prosecute. “We’ve told councils what they are and they should get on and use them,” he said. 

He added that the DCLG issued a guide to councils to help them make full use of their legal powers, and from June fines will be potentially unlimited. 

“We have also provided over £6m to help local authorities root out the cowboys, meaning more than 950 overcrowded properties or illegal commercial conversions have been uncovered so far,” said Hopkins. “But the last thing we would do is introduce more red tape and bureaucracy. Requiring every single landlord to pay for a state licence from their town hall would penalise good landlords, forcing up rents and reducing choice for tenants.” 

According to recent government statistics, almost five million homes in England are not deemed to be a “decent” standard, and a third of these were in the private rented sector. Cllr Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said: “Criminal landlords are damaging the reputation of the private rented sector. Councils are doing everything they can to support and protect tenants against rogue landlords, particularly at a time when ever-increasing numbers of young professionals and families are renting. 

“One way for councils to address this growing problem is to introduce private property licensing schemes. The current system undermines the good work they are doing by limiting councils' ability to stamp out poor quality and dangerous property conditions. This is why we are calling for it to be overhauled." 

The LGA announcement comes after Labour promised to introduce new rules to protect private rental tenants if it wins the next election. The proposals include restrictions on when landlords can terminate contracts, and new three-year tenancies with stricter rules, but they have been dismissed as counter-productive ‘rent controls’ by groups representing landlords. 

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