TOWN hall chiefs have called for greater freedom for councils to regulate private landlords in their areas, following a Government announcement that £4 million will be shared by 100 councils in England to help them tackle rogue landlords.
The funding, announced by housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick MP, is intended to improve councils’ ability to take enforcement action against the minority of landlords and lettings agents that provide inadequate or unsafe housing.
Among those councils to share in the funding are 21 local authorities in Yorkshire and Humberside, which will use the cash to train over 100 enforcement officers whose job it will be to ensure landlords are meeting required standards.
“This Government will deliver a better deal for renters,” Jenrick said. “It’s completely unacceptable that a minority of unscrupulous landlords continue to break the law and provide homes which fall short of the standards we rightly expect — making lives difficult for hard-working tenants who just want to get on with their lives.
“Everyone deserves to live in a home that is safe and secure and the funding announced will strengthen councils’ powers to crack down on poor landlords and drive up standards in the private rented sector for renters across the country.”
According to the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), councils already have “strong powers” to force landlords to make necessary improvements to a property. Measure at their disposal include civil penalties and banning orders for the worst offenders.
The grants will support a range of projects to enable councils to make the best use of these powers, the ministry said. This will include trialling “innovative ideas”, sharing best practice and targeted enforcement where is it known that landlords “shirk their responsibilities”.
“We are pleased the Government has announced extra funding for councils to be able to crack down on the small minority of rogue landlords,” said Councillor Darren Rodwell, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, which represents councils in England and Wales.
“Councils are doing what they can to raise standards in the private rented sector and are taking action where required, and it is important to note that most landlords are responsible and provide decent housing for their tenants.
“However, this is being undermined by the small minority of landlords who exploit loopholes with no regard to their responsibilities.
“Councils want to work with the Government to raise standards in the private rented sector, and could do more if they were given the right tools, like greater freedom to establish local licensing schemes for landlords.”
Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey MP was less than impressed, however.
“This puny commitment is a drop in the ocean compared to the cuts that councils have faced since 2010,” he said. “The truth is that the Conservatives have gifted rogue landlords the freedom to flourish, by cutting council budgets, weakening their powers and refusing to legislate to drive up standards.
“Renters need a new legal charter of rights, with longer tenancies, new minimum standards and rent controls to make renting more affordable.”