Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads

by Mark Alexander

14:14 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads

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Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads

There is already more than enough funding and legislation to police the Private Rented Sector.

The last thing we need is more legislation, what everybody wants is enforcement and word on the street is that we could begin to see it before the end of 2013. Ben-Reeve-Lewis

PRS Hit Squads

The authorities all know who the real criminals are and the only reason the criminals are still in business is because those holding power don’t combine resources, in fact they rarely talk to each other. Until now they have all run scared of “data sharing protocols” but when that’s put to one side expect to see some very big cases of criminal landlords being taken to task.

I have heard that PRS Hit Squads will target known criminal landlords between now and Christmas and are supported “in principle” by the likes of Mark Prisk, Boris Johnson and others who openly admit to not being fans of the licensing model being operated in Newham. I’ve also heard that six figure funding for a trial has been agreed at ministerial level.

These “PRS Hit Squads” as I’ve labelled them will comprise of:-

  • Environmental heath
  • HMO licensing
  • Planning
  • Anti social behaviour teams
  • EDF revenue
  • Building contol
  • UKBA
  • Police

The plan is that they will share intelligence and converge on criminal landlords in a military style operation, focussing on the worst operators first of course. With their combined resources the criminals will not stand a chance. It will be like a man with a pea shooter trying to fend off the SAS 🙂

Beware the Spin Doctors!

My hope is that the PR outcome of the PRS Hit Squad successes will be positive and support the need for the model to be extended nationally. It is a very low cost model and the results should save the tax payer money as well as improving peoples lives (unless you are one of the targeted criminals of course!). The last thing the PRS needs is for the successes to be used as justification for more regulation. The spin doctors will see this as an opportunity to justify schemes such as Newham but this must not be allowed to happen.

Landlords can be victims too

Landlords are also the victims of criminals and I have seen some very sad examples of that. A recent case in the Fens involved a landlord who let his former home to a Gang-master. Unbeknown to him the unregulated Gang-master then allowed 20 immigrant farm workers to live in the property, all sleeping on mattresses on the floor. When the landlord found out he obviously wanted them out ASAP, as did the neighbours of pretty culdesac in which the landlords 4 bad detached property was located but the law stood in the way. Had the landlord been able to go to the authorities, secure in the knowledge they would fight for him, it would have been a Godsend to him. Instead, the authorities are threatening the landlord and not the Gangmaster! Clearly common sense isn’t that common.

Let’s hope the PRS Hit Squads are successful in taking down criminals and then lend a much needed helping hand to landlords who are also targeted by criminals. If common sense prevails we might just see more action and less talk. When all is said and done, more is said than done, but fingers crossed let’s hope that not the case here.

The Highland Fling

Earlier this year the Scottish Association of Landlords reported that landlord registration in Scotland has cost landlords £11.2 million in fees while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million. According to the results, since 2006 there have only been 40 rogue landlords identified as operating in Scotland, that’s the number of rejected applications. The cost equates to £400,000 per rogue identified!

Summary

The schemes in Newham and its copycats also show signs of being similar “White Elephants”, therefore I’m pinning my hopes on the PRS Hit Squads taking down as many criminals as possible, proving once and for all that it’s more enforcement not legislation we need. Enforcement not legislation - PRS Hit Squads



Comments

John Gell

14:44 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Well said Mark!

There's already sufficient legislation to deal with the real rogues who're out to flout the law and take advantage of folks. Government seems intent however on devising new regulation and then failing to enforce it.

Authorities just need to be joined up, and focused, as you've said.

I'm convinced that most poor practice stems from lack of awareness rather than ill intent, so why not use our local and national government resources to raise awareness of best practice instead of hounding those who're already performing well?

DC

15:27 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Mark, I agree with your thoughts and hopes, however, there is one thing that all of us in this business ought to do more often and that's if we are aware of tenants that are committing crime then we should report it to the appropriate authority.

When a tenant deliberately trashes a property, that is an act of criminal damage and the police are obliged to take action. Likewise, if there are immigration type issues such as the example you gave the immigration authorities will deal with it.

It's unfair to say that the authorities do not work with each other because we know they do when carrying out their regular multi-agency operations, however what I think we do need is a fulltime unit comprising of all of the necessary regulatory bodies.

It needs to be properly organised and set up to cover each County area in England and Wales and with the benefit of utilising the proceeds of crime act to help fund it we need it to be a lasting organisation not just a short lived PR exercise.

Rather than continuing the landlord licencing idea, which seems to be money for old rope, I'm absolutely sure that most respectable landlords would pay a small fee each year that goes towards the running of these hit squads.

I'm sure other users of this site will have their own ideas too but I think we ought to look at the positives of this type of set-up and publically encourage it and get our feelings across to the wider public before it is used as an excuse to bring in licensing as you say.

Jay James

16:05 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

I guess that Newham is an already documented case of punitive and unreasonable, even ridiculous measures.

Is there a link to a quick overview of what's going on there?

Gary Nock

16:09 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

DC I admire your sentiments on reporting criminal damage to the police. However having spent 30 years in said organisation then the likelihood of them taking action is negligible. Landlord reports damage after tenant has left. Police arrest tenant if they can find him. Tenant denies damage and said it was his mate Bill who he met in a pub who did it. No witnesses to the damage being committed. No further action. Even if it got to the CPS (Criminal Protection Service) unless you have CCTV of the damage being committed, independent witnesses, and a video confession then they would not run it. Believe me I have been there on both sides of the fence.

Kirsty McGregor

16:13 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Yep let's hope that they do this and it's not as you say "Beware the Spin Doctors!" and also that it's not run by bureaucrats who don't know how to project manage something effectively & efficiently!

Ben Reeve-Lewis

16:44 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Well now. Stretching my arms and cracking my typing knuckles I have to go at this.

As Mark will tell you this article was prompted by a chat we had a week or so ago. Regular readers will know I am a tenancy relations officer in a London authority whose job it is to prosecute landlords for harassment and illegal eviction and I am heartily sick of having spent most of the past 23 years hardly ever managing to get any prosecutions because of the vagaries of law, the limits to individual enforcement officer powers, the lack of interest by the police in landlord and tenant issues and the pathetic punishments meted out in the criminal court.

However this does not make me a fan of the Newham model. It comes at a time when councils need to building working partnerships with PRS landlords not alienating them.

Newham’s prosecution rates this year are impressive but the collateral damage of pan borough licensing reaches far beyond the confines of Newham itself in terms of landlords attitudes towards councils as a whole.

Thank god I have managed to persuade the powers that be in my authority to take a different route. We just got funding to start a new scheme of joined up multi-agency targeting of the criminal landlords who we all know, and the properties they own. All this can be done with no more than the costs of employing me as the Enforcement Coordinator, to make sure everyone has the information they need and action coordinated.

Case study for you, and an outline of our first victim.

A landlord who shall remain nameless for now is the subject of numerous complaints. Filling his 4 bed house with 11 units filled with illegal immigrants, and two living in a shed who he uses to dig out an unauthorised basement conversion which is causing the houses either side to lean in.

Police have been called 34 times in 30 days, including an armed response unit following numerous complaints from neighbours of theft, noise and nuisance.

Planning are ordering him to re-convert it back to a single dwelling. He argues it already is but at the same time he has written a bounced cheque for EHO to licence as an HMO.

So far nobody has managed to touch him for a variety of reasons, usually officer’s powers only going so far.

We have had our target meeting for him and on a given date in the next few weeks when all warrants are in place we will raid at the same time. UKBA for the illegal immigrant element, EDF Revenue protection who will disconnect his electricity supply and remove the meter. Building enforcement who will slap him with a notice for the basement, planning enforcement with their reconversion notice, Environmental health about the HMO Licence and most satisfyingly of all, anti social behaviour team have a closure order ready to go and will site-ex his house up for 3 months.

If we get problems of any sort again we can extend the closing order for another 3 months and if he still kicks off we will take over control under a management order and will use his property to rehouse our own homeless cases.

If I can I’ll find a way of grabbing money out of him under the Proceeds of Crime act as well.

As Mr Punch says “That’s the way to do it” and when he is on the backburner we turn to the next idiot on our list, which is quite a long one.

The trick is also to publicise this widely to send the message out, if you are a criminal landlord (Not ‘Rogue’….useless term) you cant operate here.

This approach is the easiest and the cheapest and it doesn’t require anything from the decent landlord community. All we have to do is join up interested parties both within and without the council and break down the barriers of data sharing protocols so we can actually get something done.

Newham is one model but it isn’t the only one.

Mark Alexander

17:05 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ben Reeve-Lewis" at "02/10/2013 - 16:44":

AHA - I was hoping you would fess up to this being your baby 🙂

I've been stewing on our discussions for weeks as I'm so excited about what you are up to. Obviously I had to choose my words very carefully, just in case this was still top secret and to ensure I didn't drop you in it, but I'm relieved the cat is now well and truly out of the bag.

Good luck Ben and please keep us in the picture. Your adventures make for great reading and I look forward to updates.

As you can see, this will get the support it deserves from the landlord community and not just the landlord bashers and housing charities (often one in the same as we both know).

Who is handling the PR to ensure that Newham and their followers don't hijack your initiative to support their nasty propaganda?
.
.

Jay James

17:15 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ben Reeve-Lewis" at "02/10/2013 - 16:44":

Fantastic! What this person deserves is unprintable.

Hope you get a 100% success.

Jay James

17:17 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "02/10/2013 - 16:05":

What's Newham borough up to?

DC

17:38 PM, 2nd October 2013
About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gary Nock" at "02/10/2013 - 16:09":

Hi Gary, Yes I know where you are coming from but I always ask those that moan about police inaction, "Well have you ever reported any of these incidents?"
the answer is often, "No, it's not worth it."

However, if many people report the same character(s) then a picture builds up and so on so forth....

You will know that if somebody perceives that a crime has been committed and if they report it to the police that at the very least it is logged. Even if that log goes no further than the control room it is historically searchable and eventually somebody may do something about the alleged offender.

Unfortunately just writing it off all the time like you have done is the proverbial burying of ones head in the sand.

I am aware what the CPS require to even risk running a case but my point is that when a picture has been built up and that person has "come to notice" he or she may eventually be dealt with and other matters may possibly be taken into consideration??

How many times in history has a police patrol stopped a car driver for a minor traffic offence and bagged a serial killer, child murderer, rapist, terrorist etc? If they had the same attitude about not dealing with the law, no matter how irrelevant it may seem, then the real criminals aren't going to be caught and dealt with.

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