It seems that government plans to protect tenants from poor living conditions, through the expansion of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing, have not been as successful as hoped.
It is still early days of the HMO licensing scheme, which saw a wider range of properties brought into mandatory licensing back in October 2018. However, it does not yet seem to have had a significant effect in tackling the problem that remains – of loopholes in the system that enable rogue landlords to continue to take advantage of the sector.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) contacted 290 local authorities and found that two thirds of councils in England and Wales brought no prosecutions against private landlords in the year from 2017 to 2018.
This indicates that the present system could simply be adding to costs for the many good landlords, whilst still failing to deal with criminal landlords.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “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.
“Instead of policing licensing schemes, councils need to focus on finding and taking action against criminal landlords.”
Carl Agar, founder of The Home Safe Scheme and Managing Director of Big Red House, said: “It’s a big worry that local authorities don’t seem to have the resources available to manage this new workload. And the new rules are going to be practically impossible to enforce.
“The Government is essentially relying on honest landlords coming forward to apply for a licence, leaving the so-called rogue or down-right criminal landlords that really need to be identified, out of scope.”
Paul Fitzgerald, Environmental Health Officer and chair of the National HMO Network, comments: “Trying to identify an HMO from scratch is an incredibly challenging job, made harder by the failure to join up systems like council tax and benefits registers, and immigration databases. Those who are determined to break the law do not apply for a licence in the first place.”
It seems that, whilst the new HMO licensing regulations mean that honest landlords who do apply for licenses are more easily regulated, there still seems to be big loopholes in the market for rogue landlords who may still be taking advantage of paying tenants.