“Local authorities should have the power to confiscate properties”Make Text Bigger
“We have received evidence that civil penalties are not strong enough to deter landlords who are prepared to commit the most serious offences, and fines issued through the courts are often insufficient to make prosecutions worthwhile. We believe local authorities should have the power to levy more substantial fines, which might stand a chance of breaking the business models of the worst offenders. Further, local authorities should have the power to confiscate properties from those landlords committing the most egregious offences and whose business model relies on the exploitation of vulnerable tenants. Coupled with the banning orders which came into force in April, this would act as a more powerful deterrent than the existing provisions.”
The above is a quote from the The Housing Communities and Local Government Committee’s 4th report. Click here to read the full report.
However, the report does state that the vast majority of private rented tenants are satisfied with the quality of their homes.
The report focuses on the bottom end of the market where 800,000 PRS homes have a category 1 hazard eg. mould, faulty wiring and gas appliances etc. Within this sector the select committee report made up of Tory and Opposition MPs said: “There is a clear power imbalance in parts of the sector, with tenants often unwilling to complain to landlords about the conditions in their homes for fear of retaliation. Consumer rights are meaningless without the ability to use them in practice.”
Conclusions and Recommendations of the report:
- Tenants need further protections from retaliatory eviction, rent increases and harassment so they are fully empowered to pursue complaints about repairs and maintenance in their homes.
- A specialist housing court would provide a more accessible route to redress for tenants and we urge the Government to publish more detailed proposals.
- The Law Commission should undertake a review of private rented sector legislation.
- The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) should be replaced with a more straightforward set of quality standards.
- Enforcement by local authorities has been far too low and inconsistent. (six out of 10 councils had not prosecuted a single landlord in 2016)
- We heard that local authorities do not have sufficient resources to undertake their enforcement duties.
- A new fund should be established to support local authorities with this work, especially those that prioritise informal approaches to enforcement (The costs of investigations to pursue prosecutions against criminal landlords are rarely recovered through the courts).
- A national benchmarking scheme should be introduced to support local authorities with enforcement.
- Councils should publish their private rented sector enforcement strategies online.
- Local authorities should be able to levy more substantial fines, which might stand a chance of breaking the business models of the worst offenders.
- Councils should have power to confiscate properties from landlords committing the most egregious offences and whose business models rely on the exploitation of vulnerable tenants.
- Decisions to implement selective licensing schemes should be made locally, where there is greater understanding of local needs and politicians are directly accountable to the electorate for their decisions.
- However, the Secretary of State should retain a power to require local authorities to reconsider a decision to implement a licensing scheme that does not meet the strict criteria already set out by the Government. (the current process of application to the Secretary of State is too slow, lacks transparency, and is overly bureaucratic and unduly expensive)
RLA’s Chair, Alan Ward, said:
“Tenants and good landlords are being let down by local authorities unable to properly enforce the powers they already have. Whilst the MPs call for greater powers to protect tenants when they raise complaints about standards in a property, the reality is that these protections already exist.
“The problem is that over stretched councils simply do not have the resources to properly use such powers to protect tenants from the minority of landlords who are criminals and have no place in the sector.
“It is vital also that ministers adopt the committee’s recommendation for the speedy establishment of a new housing court. At present the courts are not fit for purpose when seeking to uphold tenant and landlord rights.”
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