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New powers brought in to enable councils to issue civil penalties against landlords failing to provide acceptable housing are not being used according to research by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
The new powers introduced in April 2017 were intended to help with policing the private rental sector. However, in the year that followed, 89 per cent of local authorities did not use these new powers. Half reported that they did not have a policy in place to use them.
Using a freedom of Information request, the RLA contacted 290 local authorities and found that two thirds of councils in England and Wales brought no prosecutions against private landlords in the year 2017/18.
Analysis of the results also showed that there was no clear link between a council operating a licensing scheme for landlords and levels of enforcement.
Whilst Parliament continues to discuss the private rental sector, the RLA has argued that there should be a renewed focus on enforcing the powers already available to councils, as the present system is letting down the many good landlords and tenants by failing to deal with criminal landlords.
They propose that this should include sustainable funding for enforcement departments, using council tax returns to help identify landlords and councils doing more to find and take action against criminal landlords.
Policy director for the RLA, David Smith, said: ‘These results show that for all the publicity around bad landlords, a large part of the fault lies with councils who are failing to use the wide range of powers they already have.
‘Too many local authorities fall back on licensing schemes which, as this report proves, actually achieve very little except to add to the costs of the responsible landlords who register.
‘Instead of policing licensing schemes, councils need to focus on finding and taking action against criminal landlords.’