Today the Government has published guidance urging councils to tackle the growing problem of rogue landlords. At Shelter, we have been campaigning for action on rogue landlords for two years, so this is a welcome development.
While media attention may be focused on the terrible cases of ‘beds in sheds’, the guidance points out that there is also a wider problem and that ‘local authorities should take action in all circumstances’. We have heard shocking stories about the treatment people face right across the country from rogue landlords, including many cases where families’ health and security has been put at risk.
Our message to local authorities is that tough enforcement action is the best way to deter rogue landlords from exploiting their tenants. This is already resulting in strong action; just look at the recent case of a rogue landlord being fined a record £310,000 by Harrow Crown Court. Portsmouth, Leeds and Swansea local authorities provide other recent examples of successful prosecutions.
The Government’s guidance published today shares this message on tough enforcement and urges political leadership to make tackling rogue landlords a priority. This is a significant intervention and it will be helped by the Minister writing to all local authority leaders and chief executives with a firm message to prioritise this issue.
Our campaign to Evict Rogue Landlords has had other notable successes since it launched in August 2010. Our first focus was on the media and engaging the public in the problem of rogue landlords. Compelling television programmes, including Panorama and Dispatches, showed the grim reality of renting from a rogue landlord. Thousands of people were inspired to sign petitions and call for government to act.
Later on we did extensive analysis on the extent of problems in the private rented sector and how they can be overcome. We carried out a Freedom of Information request of councils – all but a handful responded. We unearthed the scale of the problem for the first time, and spoke to many enforcement staff to understand why few authorities were getting tough on rogue landlords. We noted it was just as much about officers on the ground as it was about senior officials and politicians being supportive of their officers to take action.
This kind of campaigning works to help our clients, and it’s great that the government has taken notice. We now need local authorities to act on our and the government’s call for strong political leadership and tough enforcement action. The campaign must continue to build momentum if we are to put a halt to rogue landlords ruining the lives of ordinary families. We will continue to press for action on rogue landlords and you can join us here.