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A committee of MPs have voiced the controversial opinion that any landlord flouting the law by exploiting their tenants should have their properties confiscated.
Members of the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) committee have argued that tenants need greater protection from landlords who may be exploiting them. They assert that tenants face issues such as unfair rent rises, retaliatory evictions and harassment.
An enquiry launched by the HCLG also found that up to 25 people could be living in three-bedroomed houses, or in other problematic cases, landlords could be charging tenants up to £500 for a bed in a room with four bunkbeds.
In order to prohibit this kind of behavior from a minority of landlords who tarnish the reputation of the sector, the HCLG committee argue that local authorities should be given powers to confiscate properties from the worst offenders, or those who have a record of consistently exploiting vulnerable tenants.
Chair of the HCLG committee, Clive Betts, said: ‘The imbalance in power in the private rented sector means vulnerable tenants often lack protection from unscrupulous landlords, who can threaten them with retaliatory rent rises and eviction if they complain about unacceptable conditions in their homes. Local authorities need the power to levy more substantial fines against landlords, and in the case of the most serious offenders, ultimately be able to confiscate their properties.’
However, a campaign group felt that the MPs should have taken an even stronger stance.
Director of Generation Rent, Dan Wilson Craw, said: ‘The law is supposed to protect tenants from these criminals but many won’t complain about squalid conditions out of fear that the landlord will retaliate with a rent rise or eviction. Councils are in a position to dispel such fears, but too many are failing to take meaningful enforcement action in response to complaints. They must do more to assure private renters whose side they are on.’
The recommendations come following an increasingly tough stance taken by the government on rogue landlords. Landlords currently face civil penalties of up to £30,000. Those who break the law can also be banned from taking on tenants, a recent implementation from which the effects have yet to be gleaned.