Councils across England are failing to use the powers that they have been given to tackle bad landlords in the private rental sector, insists the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
Figures given in a parliamentary answer reveal that, during the 18 months until the end of September 2018, local authorities made just three Rent Repayment Orders across England.
Where the rent covered by benefits is paid directly by a tenant, they have the same rights to apply for a Rent Repayment Order as councils, with 18 made over the same period.
Since April 2017, councils have had the power to reclaim up to 12 months’ rent from private landlords for a range of offences in instances where rent was paid through housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. Tenants who pay their rent directly have the same rights.
Offences include: those related to the licensing of rental property; a failure by a landlord to comply with an improvement notice served on them; seeking to evict tenants illegally; or engaging in harassing behaviour.
The figures arrive after research by the RLA has already shown that councils are also failing to use new powers to fine landlords up to £30,000 for providing inadequate housing. The new civil penalty powers were introduced in April 2017.
Freedom of Information requests by the RLA have found that, in 2017/18, 89% of local authorities did not use these new powers. Half reported that they did not have a policy in place to use them.
David Smith, the Policy Director for the RLA, says: “Councils are failing tenants and good landlords. For all the talk about them needing new powers, the reality is that many are not properly using the wide range of powers they already have to drive out criminal landlords.
“Laws without proper enforcement mean nothing. It is time for councils to start acting against the crooks.”