So called ‘rogue landlords’ should have their properties confiscated, according to MPs.
A report into the private rented sector was published by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee and stated that current financial penalties are a ‘meaningless’ deterrent.
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Local councils should have power to take properties
MPs on the committee said the government should “give local authorities the power to confiscate properties from those committing the most egregious offences and whose business model relies on the exploitation of vulnerable tenants.”
Despite evidence of this exploitation, the report found that six out of 10 councils didn’t prosecute a single landlord in 2016. Councils told the MPs that the reason for this is that “some of the fines levied are pitiful.” They are often only £100 or £200, but it can cost local authorities thousands to take landlords to court.
Evictions and rent increases also in the crosshairs
The committee also said tenants should have more protection from evictions, rent increases and harassment, adding that 800,000 private rented homes suffer from excess cold, mould or dodgy wiring.
This particular recommendation may set off alarm bells for some landlords, as many have been forced to raise rent in the light of recent legislative changes – such as the ban on tenant fees and the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards.
What will the report mean in practice?
At the moment, the report is only a list of recommendations and no bill has been drafted. A spokesman for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent home and we have given councils stronger powers to crack down on bad landlords, including fines of up to £30,000 and banning orders.”
The Residential Landlords Association said it agrees with much of the report, but it added that additional regulation would be unwelcome. “The RLA has long been concerned with the increasing complexity of laws and regulations related to private rented housing, which cause uncertainty for all those in the sector.”
“Tenants and good landlords are being let down by local authorities unable to properly enforce the powers they already have,” said Alan Ward, chair of the Residential Landlords Association.
“The problem is that over-stretched councils simply do not have the resources to properly use such powers to protect tenants from the minority of landlords who are criminals and have no place in the sector.”