'Government must allow councils to fight rogue landlords'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government, Regulation
The government is being urged to cut red tape and allow councils to tackle the menace of rogue landlords.
According to joint research by think tank the LGiU and the Electrical Safety Council (ESC), the coalition is undermining the ability of local authorities to tackle poor standards in the private rented sector (PRS).
The research reveals that 35% of properties in the PRS pose a threat to tenants' health and safety by failing to meet the decent homes standard.
With local authorities being responsible for ensuring adequate standards in the sector, the 'House Proud' report calls on the government to give them the freedom they need to respond flexibly to the needs of their communities.
The report's recommendations include:
• Amending the 2004 Housing Act, which currently prevents councils from licensing accommodation on the basis of poor conditions.
• Give councils more power to recoup the costs of enforcements.
• Allow councils to choose to introduce compulsory accreditation.
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, said: “The massive growth of the PRS presents a variety of challenges. Whilst the majority of the PRS properties meet appropriate standards, a minority of landlords actively pursue criminal activity to the detriment of those living in their properties.
“Councils can play a key role in tackling poor standards in the PRS, but to do this effectively, they must be freed from central government red tape. There is no one-size-fits-all model. Rather, local authorities must be given the freedom and capacity to respond to the needs and issues in their areas.”
The recommendations are based on evidence taken from a survey of 178 councils, and a series of in-depth interviews with local housing teams.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said that resource was a major barrier to better engagement with the PRS and a number drew attention to the issue of restrictions.
Phil Buckle, director general of the ESC, added: “With increasing numbers of people renting privately, it is imperative that proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety. For example, although it’s recognised that electrical accidents cause over half of Great Britain’s domestic fires, landlords are not required to have the electrics in their rented properties checked – or provide tenants with safety certificates.
“And, while we would like to see additional safety requirements for the PRS at a national level, we wholeheartedly support empowering local councils to address the safety of housing in their areas. We’ve been working with proactive councils such as Newham to discuss their approach to safety in the PRS, and intend to do so more widely.”