Local councils have called on the Government to close a legal loophole permitting landlords to covert properties into multi-units that are marketed as self-contained flats.
Many landlords do this in order to secure the maximum level of housing level of housing benefit payments, that are paid directly to landlords on behalf of tenants.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents over 370 councils in England and Wales, feels that the housing benefit scam is leaving some tenants to live in poor and dangerous conditions. As such, the ‘Association has called for some accommodation to be closed and for more rogue landlords to be jailed, as opposed to being fined.
Industry figures indicate that private landlords received £9.3bn in housing benefit during 2015, over double the £4.6bn in 2006.
Councillor Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesperson, observed: ‘No landlord can act outside the law and councils will do everything in their powers to ensure tenants can live in rented properties safe in the knowledge that local authorities are there to protect them.’
‘However, the reputations of all good landlords are being tarnished by the bad ones and councils are being let down by the current system. Legislation is not keeping pace with the ingenuity to exploit loopholes which need to be closed as soon as possible,’ she added.
Reputation of good landlords being tarnished by the bed
Continuing, Blake said: ‘Legislation needs to be more joined up to prevent some landlords taking advantage of people at the sharp end of our housing crisis. Giving councils powers to be able to build more affordable homes is likely to be more successful at meeting necessary standards than the private rental sector, and help reduce the risk of tenants falling victim to potentially tragic and preventable consequences due to unscrupulous landlords.’
‘Councils won’t hesitate to take irresponsible landlords to court for blatantly failing to comply with housing laws and any tenants who suspect their landlord of criminal behaviour or who have been evicted illegally should contact the housing team at their local council,’ she concluded.