Tales from the front line: getting tough on rogue landlords

This won’t be the first time you’ve heard Shelter talking about rogue landlords. We’ve been calling on local authorities to take tough, visible enforcement action against these landlords for some time now. The good news is that more than 50 local authorities have already signed a statement of support, committing to do just that.

The bad news is that our new research, released today, shows that this unscrupulous minority are having a significant impact on the health of renters, particularly on the health of children.

To find out more about the work local authorities are doing to combat rogue landlords, I spent a day with one of the local authorities that have signed the statement of support: Islington.

We visited a retired tenant suffering from serious mobility issues. His bedroom had become uninhabitable because of the cold. It had been built as an extension and as a result had three external walls. These walls contained no insulation and left the tenant completely at the mercy of the elements. Both the kitchen and the bathroom also had significant damp.

His quality of life was being severely reduced because of these poor conditions. The Senior Environmental Health Officer (whose duty it is to respond when the health of a tenant is in jeopardy) was visibly appalled: enforcement action will commence immediately.

Later I joined an inspection of suspected houses of multiple occupation where we met a new landlord who had purchased his property 11 months ago. This landlord had inherited four tenants, but had scant knowledge of his legal responsibilities. The house was in need of a deep clean and a number of the fire alarms were visibly damaged. His casual disregard for the wellbeing of the renters that call his property home was staggering.

Both visits brought home just how dangerous elements of the sector are. It is unacceptable that some landlords are still able to put their tenants at risk, especially as more and more children are now growing up in rented homes.

Many are vulnerable. They have very few rights and in a high pressure market they cannot voluntarily escape their surroundings, even if they are making them ill. The dearth of available, affordable housing leaves renters with little or no control over where they live.

It is up to local authorities to take tough, high profile enforcement action that will force these landlords to clean up their act and push the worst culprits out of the sector. But the Government also has to ensure that the penalties these landlords receive are substantial and that the legislation exists to properly protect renters.

My day with Islington showed just how serious the problems are, but also how hard some councils are working to combat them. In the face of increased budgetary pressures Islington have joined forces with local charities and community groups to continue proactively rooting out rogue landlords and uncovering tenants at risk. These sort of innovative techniques, coupled with a genuine desire to protect tenants, prove that when the will is there a lot can be achieved.

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4 Comments
  1. I have tenants who remove batteries and use them for other things. We then decided to fit hard-wired electric alarms, but cut the wires to disable them. I had one tamper with the smoke alarm, but when they left the property they did n’t tell us they tampered with the smoke alarm,so endangering the lives of the next tenants. Shelter are totally one sided, in your eyes, these 9 million renters can do no wrong. Why don’t you campaign for laws, which makes it illegal for tenants to tamper with smoke alarms?. I suspect the broken smoke alarms in the HMO you visited were down to tenants, unless you assume shops sell broken smoke alarm.

  2. “This landlord had inherited four tenants, but had scant knowledge of his legal responsibilities.”

    This is why it is compulsory for either the landlord or the letting agents (or anyone working for them), having attended a training course.

    The problem is all councils have their own training courses. I prefer a single national one. I dislike most landlord training courses. They are patronising, as they focus on tenant rights. But who is going to remind tenant of their obligation to look after the property?. Courses should also focus on role-playing and dealing with tenant behaviour:

    – aggressive tenant

    – tenants who don’t clean the property
    – ridiculous tenant s

    I had tenant who said fridge door was broken. We found the fridge / freezer had never been defrosted and there was ice which is the door would not close. We explained to the tenant, that he needs to defrost the freezer. The tenant was insisting we buy a new one and would stop the rent.

    Not in all cases, should the landlord be obligated to go on a training course. For instance, if the landlord is abroad, then either the letting agent or their representative must have attended a training course course.

  3. “it is up to local authorities to take tough, high profile enforcement
    action that will force these landlords to clean up their act and push
    the worst culprits out of the sector.”

    Good landlords can be prosecuted for being bad landlord. We rented a flat woman, but she sub-let the rooms to other people. There by turning into an HMO. BY the time, she was gone, the property was ruined. There was mould in the property. She had turned my property into a slum doss house. We were the victims. If the property had been inspected by the council, they would have prosecuted us, instead of the tenant (she would have denied all knowledge and done a runner). Any prosecution under the housing act is a criminal record.

    Why don’t Shelter play fair. You never hear of tenants being prosecuted for trashing a property?

    The deposit scheme is a biased. If the landlord forgets to protect the deposit, then 3 times the rent is payable. But bad tenants, often don’t pay the last months rent, so there is no deposit to cover any damages. So what incentive is there to look after the property. Such tenants are like a plague of locusts, they move into a nice property and ruin it and move on…..

  4. I WOULD JUST URGE ALL LANDLORDS TO BOMBARD THEIR MPs AND LANDLORD ORGANISATIONS POINTING OUT PRIVATE LANDLORDS GENERALLY DO A GREAT SERVICE AND WE DO NOT NEED ANY MORE LAWS AND REGULATIONS TO DISCOURAGE US.With present house price inflation more rented accommodation will be needed and this government is NOT providing it. As things stand the law is biased AGAINST landlords and if a tenant is not happy he/she can simply walk out of the door.A more important issue is that letting agents are regulated and that they are FULLY responsible for the tenant’s deposit, as things stand landlord’s are completely responsible for the deposit even if they have handed it to their agent.

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