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Councils receive additional funding to tackle rogue landlords

Thursday 17 January 2019

Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler has announced that more than 50 councils in England are to benefit from a funding pot of £2.4 million to help them tackle rogue landlords.

The private rented sector in England currently makes up 20% of all tenure types, with 4.7 million households. But whilst recent statistics show that 82% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, a minority of non-compliant landlords continue to tarnish the whole sector by renting out inadequate or unsafe housing.

The new funding pot will help councils with staffing costs and create new digital tools to help protect tenants from unscrupulous or irresponsible landlords who make their lives a misery. Councils can also use their share to put practices in place to enable them to share data more effectively between authorities and agencies, which will help enable better enforcement targeting. 

The Government gives the following examples of how the funding could be used by councils:

  • the need for better information - on housing stock and on landlords and agents operating in their areas
  • data sharing between authorities and agencies – identifying and bringing together different data sets to enable better enforcement targeting
  • internal ‘ways of working’ - improving housing-specific legal expertise, in-house communication between teams, and tools and strategies to effectively implement policy
  • innovative software - for enforcement officers to record their findings, gather evidence and streamline the enforcement process.

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said:

"Everyone has the right to live in a home that is safe and secure, and it is vital we crack down on the small minority of landlords who are not giving their tenants this security.

"This extra funding will further boost councils’ ability to root out rogue landlords and ensure that poor-quality homes in the area are improved, making the housing market fairer for everyone."

Councils may also decide to support tenants to take action against poor standards through rent repayment orders, or develop digital solutions, helping officers to report back and make decisions quicker. Councils that receive funding will be encouraged to share best practice and examples of innovative approaches, to help improve enforcement in other areas.

Nottingham City Council, is one of the councils across the country to benefit from the extra funding. They are using the £43,821 granted by MHCLG to introduce a new system, which will make tackling rogue landlords more efficient than the current approach, which is time-consuming and labour-intensive.

They say that the online tool will help them prioritise high-risk properties for enforcement action by using multiple layers of data from council departments and partner organisations such as Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and Nottinghamshire Police. This new approach is being delivered in partnership with the University of Nottingham.

Around 37,000 properties in the private rented sector in Nottingham fall within one of three licensing schemes – but 17,000 properties are unlicensed, which has led to criticism by landlord and tenant groups who argue that 50% or more of the licensed properties will not receive formal inspections, which weakens the council's argument that the licensing scheme protects and safeguards tenants. It's hoped that the new scheme will help to identify which of these properties are highest risk and use appropriate regulation and enforcement powers to achieve improvements across the sector.

Portfolio Holder for Community Protection at Nottingham City Council, Cllr Toby Neal, said: “We are at the forefront when it comes to tackling rogue landlords and just last year investigated and improved over 750 properties across the city after receiving complaints, as well as carrying out a range of civil enforcement action and criminal prosecutions.

“This data modelling tool will step up our fight against rogue landlords by using the best possible intelligence to tackle them and poor housing conditions in areas where there are associated problems such as high repeated crime and issues of anti-social behaviour. It means there can be an effective multi-agency response, allowing for the police and other enforcement agencies to take action together to tackle a range of issues such as dangerous and poor housing conditions, overcrowding, modern slavery, trafficking, organised crime and anti-social behaviour.

“Ultimately it will lead to more properties in the city being properly licensed and so give private tenants a better standard of living and proper recourse to support if things go wrong.”

Examples of how other councils have used the funding are:

  • Walsall - to improve cross-agency enforcement work, including the innovative use of drones and thermal mapping to identify problem properties

  • Lancaster - to create a training programme for existing enforcement staff across the Lancashire region

  • Greater London Authority (GLA) and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) – allocated over £330,000 between them to carry out coordinated work to tackle rogue landlords who operate across multiple local authorities in their regions

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