The issue of rogue landlords has been in the news numerous times over the past few years due to the increasing dependence of the UK public on the private rental sector.
It is assumed that over the next few months, political parties will start to make clear their stances on rogue landlords and the punishments they should face, however, punishing rogue landlords isn’t as easy as most people think.
Here, Just Landlords explains in more detail:
Current punishments for rogue landlords
This week, town hall chiefs urged the Government to bring in harsher punishments for rogue landlords, as they claim that it is currently too difficult to remove them from their constituencies.
Red tape and long-winded legal procedures mean that not only does it take a considerable amount of time and money to properly punish rogue landlords, but that when they are punished, they receive little more than a slap on the wrist.
The Local Government Association (LGA) pointed to one case where a rogue landlord was fined just £100 for letting out what has been described as a “hovel” to six people for over a year.
It also presented numerous other cases where rogue landlords were fined paltry amounts and claimed that the current system is not doing enough to discourage rogue landlords.
This week, the Government announced that magistrates will now be able to fine rogue landlords four times more than previously and in cases where landlords were previously fined a maximum of £5,000, magistrates will now have the power to set an unlimited fine.
However, many believe that this is still not enough, as the amount it costs in paperwork and legal proceedings is still more than many rogue landlords receive in fines, and this amount it being covered by taxpayers’ money.
Discussing the issue, Mike Jones, who chairs the Environment and Housing Board for the LGA, said: “The current system for prosecuting rogue landlords is not fit for the 21st century. Criminal landlords are exploiting this and endangering tenants’ lives. They are treating the paltry fines as operating costs, which they are offsetting against the vast profits they are raking in.”
Pressure on landlords
Along with putting tenants in danger by offering them unsuitable accommodation, rogue landlords are causing multiple issues in the private rental sector.
The issue of rogue landlords has led to members of many local councils, including Mayor of London Boris Johnson, introducing landlord registration schemes.
While these schemes seem beneficial in principle, many landlords argue that they should not have to pay for registration on top of other necessities such as landlord insurance and deposit protection schemes in order to show that they are reputable, and that these costs will ultimately be passed on to tenants who are already struggling with the cost of living.
Increasing rent prices is one of the main reasons why so many people end up relying on rogue landlords, so making it more expensive to find a decent home will only make matters worse.
How to tackle rogue landlords
As a landlord, if you believe that there are rogues operating in your area, you should contact your local council straight away to find out what procedures they have in place to deal with them.
Mike Jones added: “Councils are doing everything they can to tackle the rising levels of rogue landlords caused by the housing crisis.
“However, they are being hamstrung by a system racked by delays, bureaucracy and feeble fines. We need a new streamlined system, which is much fairer, faster, more efficient and treats the criminal abuse of tenants seriously.
“Prosecution in its current state simply is not seen as an effective deterrent by rogue operators. We need a system which protects the good landlords, whose reputation is being dragged down by the bad ones.”
Even though the Government has increased the amount that magistrates can now fine rogue landlords, without changing the entire system, both tenants and reputable landlords will suffer in the long run.
It is likely that most political party leaders will promise tougher punishments for rogue landlords in the run up to the general election, however, it will be interesting to see which ones actually suggest a feasible way of removing them entirely.