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Labour leader, Ed Miliband says Labour plan to crackdown on rogue landlords and grant local authorities greater powers.

Labour Leader Plans Crackdown on Rogue Landlords

Labour Leader Plans Crackdown on Rogue Landlords

Politicians are usually reticent to discuss the UK private rental sector (PRS) because political conflicts could easily arise. Landlords are, of course, great taxpayers and contributors to the economy, where tenants are seen to be the ‘ordinary man’: in reality, both have their place and their way of working. 

However, Labour party leader Ed Milliband was keen to make clear his plans to protect tenants from rogue landlords in a speech delivered earlier this week, in favour of longer tenancy agreements.

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A request sent by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) using a Freedom of Information request about bad landlords has so far been ignored by Newham Council

The London borough are the first local authority in England who intend to bring in the blanket licensing of all private rental properties within its boundaries is unable to tell the RLA how many prosecutions it has brought against private landlords over the last five years.

The Residential Landlords Association made a Freedom of Information request, and described the response from Newham Council in London as ‘pitiful’.

The RLA said it was staggered that the authority, which requires all private rental property to be licensed by January 1, did not have the information to hand.

Newham insists that it is bringing in blanket licensing because it has identified problems of poor property and tenancy management.

The council said it was unable to “… provide accurate historical reports on the number of prosecutions against landlords for the last five years”.

It went on to blame “a change in recording procedures last year and a change in computerised systems for reporting purposes” for its failure to provide the figures. It said that to produce the figures would require an officer to manually interrogate all files.

Newham could only produce figures for 2011/12. These show that the council prosecuted 31 landlords.

The RLA has repeated its call for the council to abandon its plans for blanket licensing, and to use existing legislation to actively pursue and prosecute criminal landlords.

Licences applied for now will cost £150 and last five years. After January 1, the cost will rise to £500.

Licensing would usually be the responsibility of the landlord, but could also fall into the remit of the managing agent. Failure to license could mean fines of up to £20,000, and the council could seek a rent repayment order for up to 12 months of rental income. It will also not be possible to use the S.21 procedure for possession if a property has not been licensed.

The homeless charity, Shelter, has also called on all other local authorities to follow Newham Council’s lead, but they are already facing criticism over their blanket Rogue Landlord campaign.

Major clampdown launched on ‘beds in sheds’

UK Government act to end bad practices of rogue landlords

UK Government act to end bad practices of rogue landlords

Prior to the Government reshuffle, ministers last week launched a major clampdown on rogue landlords to bring an end to suburban shanty towns that trap vulnerable people in dangerous living conditions.

Ex Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Ex Immigration Minister Damian Green, (who have since been replaced by Mark Frisk and Mark Harper respectively) launched new guidance for local authorities making clear the wide range of powers at their ministerial disposal to shut down so-called ‘beds in sheds’ that blight entire neighbourhoods and take action against other bad practices by rogue landlords such as overcrowding and poor maintenance.

Mr Shapps in his then post as housing minister and Mr Green as the then immigration minister saw the evidence for themselves when they attended an early morning visit on a suspected rogue landlord’s properties, and witnessed the squalid conditions the so called tenants lived in, despite paying the landlords hundreds of pounds a week.

While visiting six properties, officials from Ealing Council and the UK Border Agency encountered 39 individual tenants, 22 of whom were illegal immigrants:

  • Of those 22 illegal immigrants encountered, 19 were detained (3 were required to report to a Reporting Centre because they were a couple with a young child);
  • Of those 22 encountered, 14 were found in the outhouses (this includes two adults with a young child). The remainder were found in the houses;
  • Of those 19 detainees, 16 were Indian nationals and 3 were Pakistani nationals;
  • Of those 19 detainees, 9 entered the country without leave, 8 were overstayers, one was a failed asylum seeker and one was working in breach of his visa conditions.

    Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Immigration Minister Damian Green outside a rogue landlords property

    Ex Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Ex Immigration Minister Damian Green outside a rogue landlords property

Power to tackle rogue landlords

The new guidance highlights the range of actions councils can take to clamp down on rogue landlords once and for all. These include:

  • Proactively identifying problem properties and effectively working through complaints;
  • Taking action using a full range of legal powers to stop rogue landlord activities;
  • Working with other organisations including the police and UK Border Agency to tackle linked criminal behaviour;
  • Prosecuting rogue landlords who persistently let illegal property;
  • Providing evidence of landlord’s earnings to magistrates to ensure they receive an appropriate level of fine for offences;
  • Naming and shaming prosecuted landlords by publicising successful cases;
  • Working with the new national taskforce which has been set up between Whitehall departments, the police, the UK Border Agency and local government. The taskforce is exploring all possible options for closing down ‘beds in sheds’.

Thousands of sheds and outbuildings have been being rented out illegally to vulnerable migrants by ruthless rogue landlords who charge them extortionate rents to live in cramped conditions.

These tenants can often find it difficult to return home quickly with some having destroyed their passports to avoid removal often leaving them to either live in these outbuildings or face living on the streets.

Outgoing Housing Minister Shapps said: “It’s simply unacceptable that people are living in squalid, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords more interested in a quick profit rather than their basic responsibilities. The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working and benefit fraud and creates a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people’s health as well as community relations. I want to see all agencies from local authorities, the police and the UK Border Agency using the full range of powers at their disposal to work together on a national clampdown towards ridding our communities of this problem once and for all.”

Whilst former Immigration Minister Green said: “Operations like this show our determination to do whatever is necessary, working alongside local authorities and police, to enforce our laws against those who are in the UK illegally. The UK Border Agency continues to gather intelligence about those illegally in the country. Those with no right to be in the UK must leave the country. If they need help to leave the country voluntarily we will offer it but if they refuse we will enforce there removal.”

The latest guidance is backed up by the recent allocation of £1.8 Million (GBP) to local authorities earlier this year to tackle the issue and flush out rogue landlords renting out ‘beds in sheds’.

The Government have stated that they are commited to targeting rogue landlords and any change in ministerial representation will not affect their policy on this or any other matter.

The full report can be downloaded here

Many Local Authorities are struggling to crack down on rogue landlords because of a lack of public sector funding.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) surveyed a number of local authorities across the UK and uncovered an alarming number of failed prosecutions against bad landlords due to public sector cuts.

One local authority stated: “We generally have no budget to prosecute.”

Another local authority said that it had been unable to take anything through to the prosecution stage since 2009 because their legal department was so small.

A third council said that it had “practically disbanded its  private sector housing team”.

In other areas, one environmental health officer was expected to cover the large geographical area of 2 local authorities, following a restructure.

Head of policy at CIEH, David Kidney, said: “This survey confirms our worst fears that many councils are finding it increasingly difficult to conduct investigations due to cutbacks in government housing expenditure. This is impairing the ability of EHOs to tackle abuses in the private rented sector. As we have said, it makes no economic sense to cut back investment in housing. The equation is a simple one: poor housing leads to poor
health which needs to longer NHS queues, which end up putting a further squeeze on the nation’s resources. The Government’s obsession with cutting spending is putting some of the most vulnerable people at risk. We must have an informed, evidence-based discussion about housing in this country.”

 

Almost 40%, (four in ten) properties in the UK Private Rented Sector, (PRS),  have Buy-To-Let mortgages on them.

The estimate was made by Communities and Local Government (CLG) minister Andrew Stunell in response to a question from campaigning Labour MP Graham Jones asking about “The effects of buy-to-let mortgages on the size of the private rented sector”.

Stunell replied: “Based on data drawn from the English Housing Survey for 2010/11 and the latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, (CML), we estimate that buy-to-let mortgages currently support some 39% of private rented sector stock. The Government’s Housing Strategy outlines our support for a thriving private rented sector, (PRS), as well as taking a series of measures to build more affordable homes and support home ownership.”

Graham Jones has repeatedly called on the Government to tackle the problem of rogue landlords.

Mr Jones is the MP for Hyndburn in Lancashire, whose council is currently making a second attempt to regulate private landlords by introducing selective licensing.

The authority’s first attempt was blocked when a legal challenge by a collective of landlords was upheld by the courts

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