Most local authorities are failing to prosecute rogue landlords, despite being handed new powers to do so, new figures suggest.
In 2017, the government introduced tough new rules to help crackdown on rogue landlords that flout the rules and improve safety and affordability for renters.
Landlords can now be fined up to £30,000 for offences such as harassment of tenants and illegal evictions.
However, a majority of local authorities have yet to make any prosecutions.
According to data obtained from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), two-thirds of councils in England and Wales have brought no prosecutions against private landlords since they were introduced.
Its research also revealed that since the introduction of the powers to issue civil penalties against landlords failing to provide acceptable housing, nine out of 10 (89%) of councils have not used them.
Worryingly, half of all councils reported that they did not even have a policy in place to use these powers.
The research also found that nearly a fifth of councils have not even issued improvement notices which order a landlord to carry out repairs or improvements to a property.
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The RLA analysed the results from 290 local authorities and found that there was no clear link between a council operating a licensing scheme for landlords and levels of enforcement.
It says tenants and good landlords are being “failed by a system unable to root out criminal landlords” and is calling for a renewed focus on enforcing the powers available to councils.
This includes sustainable funding for enforcement departments, using council tax returns to help identify landlords and doing more to find and take action against criminal landlords.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, says: “These results show that for all the publicity around bad landlords, a large part of the fault lies with councils who are failing to use the wide range of powers they already have.
“Too many local authorities fall back on licensing schemes which, as this report proves, actually achieve very little except to add to the costs of the responsible landlords who register.”
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He adds: “Instead of policing licensing schemes, councils need to focus on finding and taking action criminal landlords.”
A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) spokesperson responds: “We are committed to tackling the minority of rogue landlords who exploit tenants.
“Through fines and banning orders we have provided councils with new enforcement tools and we expect them to use these powers to crack down on bad landlords.
“Everyone deserves a safe place to call home, and we will continue to work with the sector to ensure this is the case.”