The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for rogue landlords that commit the most serious housing offences to be jailed.
The statement arrives as a response to the Government consultation on dealing with criminal landlords and letting agents.
The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, also called for tougher sentencing powers for magistrates and a wider range of penalties, so that rogue landlords are sufficiently held responsible for letting out sub-standard housing.
The body has also supported Government proposals for a blacklist of persistent criminal landlords to be formed.
Councillor Peter Box, the housing spokesperson at the LGA, says: “For the private rented sector to succeed, it needs a local response, led by councils. That means giving councils the tools to be truly effective against landlords who take advantage of tenants.
“The courts need to punish rogue landlords proportionately and there should be a consistent standard when it comes to licensing. But we also need to tackle this problem at source by finding ways to ensure there is an adequate supply of good quality housing in the private rented sector.”
Box continues: “We know that the majority of tenants in the private rented sector are satisfied with their accommodation, but that shouldn’t distract from the fact there are far too many rogue landlords creating misery for people who often see themselves as having little choice but to put up with it.
“It is no coincidence that problems are more prevalent in areas where economic conditions and the local housing market have driven demand higher than supply and we need to recognise that the real solution is creating conditions where landlords can’t afford to neglect their responsibilities and exploit their tenants.”1
Responding to the consultation, the LGA has created a list of recommendations. These include:
- Introducing sentencing guidelines on Housing Act offences as a priority, ensuring consistent and suitable fines. For more serious offences, an amendment to the Housing Act, bringing in a new range of penalties, from a fine up to a community order or custodial sentence.
- Creating a blacklist of persistent offenders, making it easier for councils to refuse to issue landlord licenses and other enforcement, so long as the administration process and cost of compiling a list is not the responsibility of local authorities.
- Strengthening of the fit and proper person test for landlords to offer a clear outline to remove uncertainty for councils and landlords and provide a strong basis for accepting or refusing a license.
- Amending the notice period and compensation arrangements for Article 4 planning powers, so that councils can respond to local concerns over high proportions of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
- Giving powers to councils to earmark additional public land for the private rental sector through large-scale investment.
The LGA highlights one particularly severe case in Wolverhampton, where the city council enforced an emergency prohibition order, evacuating tenants from a property because it was so dangerous.
The home had 11 serious safety breaches, including: no electricity, gas or water; missing fire escapes so that doors opened onto an outside drop of three storeys; no firm alarm or fire doors; the front door could not be locked and a stranger was found sleeping on the tenant’s sofa.
The landlord was fined just £2,600 and the council was forced to pay costs of around £5,500.