The legislative system dealing with rogue landlords is ‘unfit for purpose’ and should be replaced with a national database covering all housing-related convictions, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
Serial criminal landlords are, the LGA argue, being prevented from operating in some boroughs and then moving to others in order to continue their unscrupulous businesses, and local authorities don’t have the powers to tackle them.
A database listing landlords who are subject to banning orders is in the Housing and Planning bill. However, councils would like this expanded to include private landlords who have other housing-related convictions.
The LGA’s research also highlighted the slow process of prosecuting criminal landlords, which can take up to 16 months and can end up costing the council.
Wolverhampton City Council, for example, discovered a property with 11 serious contraventions and fined the landlord £2,600. The council was, however, left out of pocket by almost £5,500 from costs.
The LGA is calling for:
• A much tougher "fit and proper person" test – an initial screening process which is designed to weed out rogue landlords.
• Letting agents to be brought under the same legislation as estate agents so the bad operators can be booted out.
• Stronger sentencing guidelines for magistrates and a wider range of penalties.
LGA environment spokesman Cllr Peter Box said: “A national information pool of rogue landlords is urgently needed so councils can identify the serial rogue operators and target them more effectively. We are calling for a system which protects the good landlords, whose reputation is being dragged down by the bad ones.
“Councils are doing everything they can to tackle rogue landlords. However, they are being let down by the current system, which fails to account for the seriousness of the situation. Local authorities have found homes with fire escape doors opening out onto three-storey drops and without proper front doors, so tenants have discovered strangers sleeping on their sofas. Rogue landlords are calculating they can keep these sub-standard properties going while the cash comes in and walk away with effectively a slap on the wrist.”