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‘Rogue landlords should be put in the stocks and pelted with tomatoes’

Landlords who let badly maintained properties for high rents because they know they can get away with it should be herded into old-fashioned stocks and pelted with rotten tomatoes.

These landlords, it seems to me, prey on those who are desperate for a roof over their head — students, immigrants and those on benefits or low incomes.

The worst offenders are those landlords — or their letting agents — who acknowledge during viewings that the properties require some work and promise to put everything right before the tenants move in, but do nothing until the tenants nag them endlessly.

This causes frustration and often prevents tenants from using important facilities that may be awaiting repair, such as ovens, fridges and showers.

These lazy, greedy landlords are in the minority, but they fuel the anti-landlord narrative in the national press, which in turn is putting pressure on the Government to either legislate or tax us out of existence.

That said, some legislation is very welcome. The Government is introducing mandatory electrical safety inspections for all rental properties.

Currently, only landlords of Houses in Multiple occupation are obliged to have five-year electrical safety checks, while the rest of us only have to carry out visual inspections of electrical installations and appliances — like I’m qualified to know whether my wiring is safe or not.

Electrical Safety First, a charity that has been campaigning for the introduction of mandatory five-year checks for all rental accommodation, pointed out that although there will be a cost to landlords, regular inspections will pick up problems before they become a serious risk to the property, so saving them money — and possibly avoiding disaster — in the long run.

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However, unless the Government provides local councils with the funding to first of all inform landlords of the new rule and secondly to enforce it, I’m afraid only good landlords will comply and the worst will just ignore it.

My daughter’s friends are renting a three-bedroom property in south west london with bare wires hanging from the walls. When they told the landlord they thought this was potentially dangerous, he laughed.

When they asked to see proof that he’d had an electrical safety check, which is already mandatory for rental properties with three or more sharers, he turned nasty.

When they told him they would report him to the council’s environmental health department, he stormed off.

It turns out previous tenants have also complained about him but he’s still allowed to let a potentially unsafe property, probably because the local council doesn’t have sufficient resources to use the powers it has to stop him.

Phil Buckle, chief executive of Electrical Safety First, told me: “We are mindful of the burden that already exists on local authorities surrounding safety inspections. Should local government be deemed responsible for the enforcement of electrical safety checks, we believe it is essential that adequate funding is also provided.”

Let’s hope that happens. Sadly, I think it’s unlikely.

Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock


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