British councils have been accused of being lax regarding the punishment of rogue landlords.
New figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that six in 10 councils across the UK had not prosecuted any landlords in the last year. 80 per cent prosecuted fewer than five.
Local councils have complained that budget pressures have meant that they struggle to regulate the buy to let sector. Almost 30 per cent admitted to carrying out fewer than 100 inspections in their local area in the last year.
The London borough of Newham was the forerunner in tackling criminal landlords, having prosecuting 331 landlords. Brent council followed, with 65 prosecutions, with Waltham Forest closely behind in third with 58. Doncaster had prosecuted 49, whilst Barking and Dagenham prosecuted 35. However, many of the 180 councils who responded to the survey had failed to prosecute any.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: ‘This government is determined to crack down on rogue landlords, either forcing them to improve and raise their standards or to leave the sector entirely. We expect all councils to use the strong powers and funding we’ve given them to improve property conditions and tackle poor quality rental homes in their area. Civil penalties and extended rent repayment orders were introduced this April meaning councils can now impose fines of up to £30,000 to tackle those landlords who flout the rules and shirk their responsibilities.’
Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath who uncovered the information, took a hard line on the findings: ‘These figures expose a stark postcode lottery when it comes to tackling rogue landlords. Thousands of tenants across the country are having to endure horrendous and unsafe living conditions, while unscrupulous landlords are breaking the rules with impunity. Cash-strapped councils need more funding to inspect rented homes and bring rogue landlords to justice. Tenants should also be able to check whether their landlords have previously broken the rules through a public database. Rogue landlords have been allowed to exploit the housing crisis for too long. It’s time the government stopped dragging its feet and clamped down on them.’