Criminal landlords should have their properties confiscated, say MPs

Criminal landlords should have their properties confiscated, says a new report by MPs.

The report also calls for greater powers to be handed to local authorities to crack down on landlords who exploit vulnerable tenants.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee – made up of both Labour and Conservative MPs, including estate agent Kevin Hollinrake and former housing minister Mark Prisk – has issued its report into the private rented sector today.

It says while most tenants are happy with their homes, a “significant minority” of rental properties are “shockingly inadequate”. While the proportion of poor homes has declined over the last decade, the actual number has increased with the growth of the sector.

The report says there are 800,000 private rental homes that have at least one Category One hazard; however, 44% feared they would be kicked out if they complained.

The committee also says that enforcement of existing legislation has been far too low and inconsistent, with six out of ten councils not prosecuting a landlord in 2016.

The committee said that local authorities have insufficient resources to undertake their enforcement duties.

While it welcomed new powers introduced in recent years, it said these were “meaningless if local authorities do not, or cannot, enforce them”.

The report, which says there is a “clear imbalance” of power between landlords and tenants, calls for:

  • Greater legal protection for tenants against retaliatory eviction, rent increases and harassment;
  • A new fund to support local councils undertaking enforcement activities;
  • Informing tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities;
  • Requiring local authorities to publish their enforcement strategies online;
  • A new housing court;
  • A review of existing legislation relating to the private rented sector to see whether it can be simplified.

Committee chairman Clive Betts said: “The imbalance in power in the private rented sector means vulnerable tenants often lack protection from unscrupulous landlords who can threaten them with retaliatory rent rises and eviction if they complain about unacceptable conditions in their homes.

“Local authorities need the power to levy more substantial fines against landlords, and in the case of the most serious offenders, ultimately be able to confiscate their properties.

“Such powers are however meaningless if they are not enforced, and at the same time councils need more resources to carry out effective prosecutions.

“Stronger powers, harsher fines and a new commitment to cracking down on unscrupulous practices will go some way towards rebalancing the sector and protecting the many thousands of vulnerable residents who have been abused and harassed by a landlord.”

Among those giving evidence to the inquiry were ARLA Propertymark; NALS: Countrywide; Hunters Property Group – co-founded by Kevin Hollinrake MP; the National Landlords Association; and the Residential Landlords Association.

Alan Ward, chair of the RLA, said in response to today’s report: “Tenants and good landlords are being let down by local authorities unable to properly enforce the powers they already have.

“Whilst the MPs call for greater powers to protect tenants when they raise complaints about standards in a property, the reality is that these protections already exist.

“The problem is that over-stretched councils simply do not have the resources to properly use such powers to protect tenants from the minority of landlords who are criminals and have no place in the sector.

“It is vital also that ministers adopt the committee’s recommendation for the speedy establishment of a new housing court.

“At present the courts are not fit for purpose when seeking to uphold tenant and landlord rights.”

NALS CEO Isobel Thomson said: “NALS believes the majority of tenants enjoy safe and secure tenancies, but there are those – whether agents or landlords – who consistently flout the law with no penalty. We are pleased to see that the report underlines what consumers need most – proper, effective enforcement.

“The proposal for a Law Commission review of legislation is an interesting one, but we would be concerned that it may take some time to deliver. For those in the PRS who are facing difficulties now they need a solution sooner rather than later.”

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15 Comments

  1. smile please

    I don’t for one minute condone criminal landlords.

    But sounds a bit over the top.

    “Ah Mr landlord we have written to you on 3 seperate occasions now regarding the over population / condition of your property. As you have ignored our letters we are confiscating your 350k asset.”

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    1. Pollard36

      You’re absolutely right that it needs to be applied carefully, but it would be a strong deterrent.

      I feel a ban on purchasing second properties would also need to be in place for this to work, which is where it would become difficult to enforce.

      P

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  2. AgencyInsider

    Some of the most serious cases involve landlords who are effectively serial offenders with a complete disregard for their tenants’ safety or living conditions. With those sorts of people this ultimate sanction may well be necessary, desirable and the only thing that will make them change their attitudes and practices.

    It’s a good idea – so long as it is applied sensibly by the Courts.

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  3. smile please

    Instead of more red tape and helping destroy the PRS how about insisting landlords MUST use a letting agent. Let’s face it it’s the directly rented properties that are the problem.

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    1. 70GJ

      Sadly it’s not just the private landlords. Agents are always reported on here for running off with people’s money, failing to do Gas checks etc

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    2. ArthurHouse02

      This is the key problem, no one in Government understands the housing market, because they put too much faith in the likes of Shelter they perceive lettings agents to be horrible people looking to constantly screw tenants. Landlords letting privately need extra attention way more than letting agents do. Many privately let properties dont have EPC, gas safety certificates, inventories etc.

      Besides all of this doesnt really matter as its just waffle from the government, they cant even enforce the law that agents must publish their fees. How hard can it be for someone from local trading standards to simply go and look in the local letting agents windows? Answer they dont have the time or cant be bothered.

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    3. Stokeagent51

      I see so many let only landlords land themselves in a mess with their tenants.  It should be law that to rent, it must be through an ARLA accredited agent who has trained staff on-site.

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      1. jeremy1960

        And what would belonging to ARLA prove? Bunch of inward looking self important…….

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    4. artiglio29

      My experience of letting agents is far from satisfactory, they are in it for business purposes not well being of tenats or landlord. Such suggestions are merely an easy route to increased management income. There are many landlords that are diligent and provide good accomodation.
      tenant selection is paramount in avoiding issues. Very simply, good tenants make profitable letting at reasonable rents a viable option. I could’nt maintain my properties as i do , if i were paying 8-15% of rental income to a management agent who for me would do little other than collect rent and as as a “call centre” passing messages onto me from tenants.
      the whole fiasco could be sorted by information sharing between, benefit, council tax and hmrc, identifying rented property and a central register for gas certification ( epc exists) along with application of hhsrs every time and a fine structure that placed costs of rehousing tenants on the landlord.

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  4. artiglio29

    Without doubt there are some desperately poor landlords, they often house some of the least desirable tenants, councils don’t take action as they then would be responsible for housing any tenants made homeless as a result of enforcement action.

    in addition allowing poor housing to remain allows councils to continue the rhetoric against all landlords.

    My local council has a very lax attitude towards, fire safety, legionella and maintenance is an expensive poorly managed farce, the outcome of grenfell will result in massive  injection of funds from central gov to put things right. Much like the 40 odd billion pumped in under the decent home standard 1997-2010.

    unlike the social sector the prs does not receive these massive injections of public money to balance the economics  of a failing social sector,

    the endemic subletting of social housing along with an exemption from right to rent and an almost total lack of regulation ( councils don’t act against themselves or social providers much) the exemption of social housing from licensing schemes , all help to build a distorted picture of the rented sector as a whole.

    my properties fall in a selective licensing area, crime and antisocial behaviour was a major justifier for the scheme, yet a poi request for a breakdown of crimes by tenure type showed council/social housing had double the problem to self contained private rented accomodation, the real culprit though was energency housing, childrens homes , halfway houses and hmo’s. Hardly a surprise to anyone but ignored in the quest to denigrate landlords.

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    1. Will

      It is a do as I say; not as I do basis with many councils.  We all know they use licensing as a fund raising exercise.  I agree with your comments but as for legionella your children are more likely to get it from the squeezey bath toys than you property!! Perhaps they would ban these squeezey toys if they were sold by Landlords!

      Regretfully I do not trust any council these days, they lack integrity in many cases.

      As for the disaster Grenfell Tower it was Local Councils and big business that failed the victims. Government sponsored Building Regulations etc. yet again we see the blame being passed on to others where they think they can get away with it.

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  5. chrisdaniel

    MCHLG don’t know what’s going on – or applicable  to the Housing market. !  They haven’t long brought in £30 k PER Breach ! Civil penalties. !!,

    Faulty window, loose carpet and Locks not compliant with BS Standards, that’s £90 k Mr Landlord – but now we want to re-possess your £350 k property. Are these REAL people dreaming this stuff up ?

    In any event if £30k wasn’t enough such as Criminal Landlord, Overcrowding, suchas in Brent Council v Shah & others, unreported Haarrow  2018, The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been used. – so even this seems ‘Not enough’

    They acknowledge that measures they’ve introduced aren’t being implemented – so  WHAT  are MHCLG doing about that – nothing  !

    Continue blaming Landlords for what is in effect, a shocking lack of Management and Leadership of L.A’s by themselves  ( not aided by the abolition of LACORS )

    Savage Javid needs to take some accountability. ! –   and implement the existing legislation.

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  6. CountryLass

    I think that Landlords whose negligence has led to death or serious injury should lose their property, but it would be a difficult one to enforce. For example, who will take ownership of it, and deal with the maintenance, management and more importantly, rent of the property? It can’t be the council, for the same reason you can’t pay the fire service for the amount of fires they put out. It can’t be Shelter as that shower don’t have a clue.

    But more importantly, there SHOULD be a court just for housing issues. Why should a Landlord have to spend at least 2 months with a tenant who is refusing to pay rent (basically a squatter), just because there have been lots of ASBO’s and drink driving offences? I’m not saying those aren’t important, of course they are, but with something like this you need a specialised court. Heck, chances are the Judge could be a semi-retired one who holds a court to cover a certain area and is in 3-4 mornings a week, I know I haven’t needed to take many people to court!

    But the main thing is that people need to stop shoving their noses in if they have no clue about the PRS!

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  7. Beano200062

    Clearly if legislation like this existed it would be on the basis of some form of compulsory purchase scheme, with the property sold to the highest bidder, and any proceeds going back to the landlord less fines incurred. I approve.

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    1. CountryLass

      I’m assuming that the cost of putting the property up to ‘standard’ would also be deducted?

      Report
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