A new report from Shelter raises concerns about the state of the private rented sector. The report ‘Policy briefing: Asserting authority – calling time on rogue landlords’, assesses the scale and the nature of problems, analyses local authorities’ responses, explores the barriers to enforcement and how they can be overcome.
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The report summary is reproduced below and there is a link to the full report at the end of the post.
Shelter is concerned about the state of the private rented sector. Local authorities dealt with more than 86,000 complaints from private tenants in 2010/11; yet, wider research finds that over 350,000 private renters experienced housing problems in the same year.
The sector is blighted by a large number of amateur landlords failing to offer good standards to their tenants, and a small minority of rogue landlords who deliberately prey on the vulnerable. Local authorities have told us they are aware of some 1,477 serial rogue landlords. Yet, in the past year only 270 landlords were prosecuted and tough enforcement action made up a small proportion of local authorities’ activity. Many landlords are therefore not receiving a clear message that bad practice will not be tolerated.
This briefing exposes the scale and the nature of problems in the private rented sector, analyses local authorities’ responses to problems with landlords in their area, and explores the barriers that local authorities face in taking tough action and how they can be overcome. Finally, it makes recommendations to national and local government on the measures needed to stamp out rogue landlords once and for all.
- The scale of problems in the private rented sector raises serious questions about the suitability of private renting in general, but particularly for growing number of families and vulnerable households who have few other options open to them.
- While some local authorities are stepping up their activities to tackle problems, many are not sending out a tough message that poor practice will not be tolerated. As a result, problems continue to grow as amateur and rogue landlords alike know that tenants are often unwilling to make complaints and, when they do, the chances of a prosecution are slim.
- Many enforcement teams face substantial barriers to taking tough action against rogue landlords in their area. These are often corporate and political barriers, with frontline officers lacking the internal support to deal strategically and effectively with problems in their local private rented sector. Addressing these barriers is critical to improving the effectiveness of enforcement activities.
- National government has a vital role to play in intervening to break this vicious cycle and create a better environment for tough enforcement. This must start with a strong message to local authorities on the importance of dealing with amateur and rogue landlords in the private rented sector. Government should also work with the court system to improve their understanding of the seriousness of the problem.
- Local councillors and senior officers must get to know their local private rented sector and ensure they are taking a strategic and effective response to local problems. This could involve referring amateur landlords who are the subject of complaints for training on their responsibilities to avoid future problems, and taking tough, decisive action with the worst offenders.
Policy briefing: Asserting authority – calling time on rogue landlords PDF is available here.