The government is to create a £2m fund to help English councils tackle rogue landlords, after a Guardian and ITV News investigation revealed how convicted property owners are continuing to collect rents – often funded by the taxpayer – despite being ruled unfit to let out property.
The response is the second move in a fortnight by ministers following the publication of the investigation in October, with Theresa May pledging last month to give tenants access to the government’s new rogue landlord database. The Guardian and ITV News had revealed that not a single name had been entered into the new system in more than six months since its launch – and that even when landlords’ names were listed, the public would not be allowed to see them.
In announcing the new money – which works out at less than £6,000 per council – the housing minister Heather Wheeler said: “This funding will help further strengthen councils’ powers to tackle rogue landlords and ensure that poor-quality homes in their area are improved, making the housing market fairer for everyone.”
The government said the funding would be used to support a range of projects that “councils have said will help them to ramp up action against criminal landlords – for example, to build relationships with external organisations such as the emergency services, legal services and local housing advocates”.
Councils may also decide to use the funds to support tenants to take action against poor standards through rent repayment orders.
Jacky Peacock, a director of the tenants charity Advice4Renters, said: “It’s encouraging that the government recognises the need for local authorities to step up action, although £2m will not go far, given the scale of the problem and the challenges in making a real impact while also protecting the tenants in the properties.”
She said she hoped the government would make further funds available when changes to the law come into effect next year. The expected new regulations include preventing landlords of properties with the poorest energy efficiency ratings from offering new tenancies, and fresh powers for tenants to take legal action against their landlords rather than relying on local authority enforcement.
The government said there were more than 4.5m households in the private rented sector in England, and that “recent statistics show that 82% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation”.
It estimates there are 10,500 rogue landlords operating in England.