The number of landlord convictions is no deterrent to the worst landlords, argues tenant group Generation Rent. The organisation is calling on the Government to increase the penalties for those that rent out unsafe homes.
This follows the release of all landlords convicted under the Housing Act 2004, as published by Environmental Health News, after a legal battle with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Generation Rent Calls for Harsher Criminal Landlord Penalties
2,006 landlords have been convicted. However, Citizens Advice estimates that there are 740,000 unsafe properties in the private rental sector.
The publication of the data allows tenants to check if their landlord, or prospective landlord, has been convicted of an offence.
However, Generation Rent believes that this may not help them, as renters often pay a holding deposit to the letting agent before getting a draft tenancy agreement, and thus finding out who their landlord could be.
If the tenant discovers that the landlord is a convicted criminal and then decides to back out, they could still lose their holding deposit, which can be hundreds of pounds.
The group is urging ministers to use the forthcoming housing bill to give renters the right to back out of an agreement if the landlord is convicted of an offence.
Its campaign also calls for the following:
- Higher fines that local authorities can impose and keep, which will give them the incentive to take more action against criminal landlords.
- A national landlord licensing scheme to create a more professional sector, by training and supporting landlords in complying with legislation and helping their tenants.
- An extension to the Rent Repayment Order, which allows tenants living in unsafe conditions to claim back rent.
Director of Generation Rent, Betsy Dillner, says: “The private rented population has been growing over the past decade, and with rising demand, the number of opportunities for unscrupulous landlords to exploit desperate tenants has grown.
“Although prosecutions have been rising, Citizens Advice estimates that 740,000 homes are unsafe, so it’s clear that their activities are missing thousands of landlord and not even acting as a deterrent.
“Those landlords who do get caught are fined tiny sums compared to the rent they receive, so they’re just treated as a business expense. If the Government really wants to drive the bad landlords out of the market, we need a much more robust sentencing regime.”1