Local councils are calling on the government to close a legal loophole that allows landlords to get away with converting properties into multiple tiny units which are marketed as self-contained flats in order to secure the maximum level of housing benefit payments which are paid on behalf of tenants direct to landlords.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, insists that the housing benefit scam which is forcing some tenants to live in ‘poor and dangerous’ accommodation needs closing and that more rogue landlords should be jailed, rather than imposing fines.
Industry figures show private landlords received £9.3bn in housing benefit in 2015, twice that of £4.6bn in 2006, and the LGA claims that the micro sub-division of properties – known as the Lockdown model - used by landlords may have contributed to this significant increase across the country.
Cllr Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesperson, said: “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 of landlords to exploit loopholes which need to be closed as soon as possible.
“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.”