Two thirds of councils in England and Wales brought no prosecutions against private landlords in the year 2017/18, according to the Residential Landlords Association.
Nearly a fifth of councils did not issue any improvement notices which order a landlord to carry out certain repairs or improvements to a property.
In April 2017, new powers were given to councils to issue civil penalties against landlords failing to provide acceptable housing,
However in the year that followed, 89% of local authorities did not use these new powers. Half reported that they did not have a policy in place to use them.
Analysis of the results from 290 local authorities replying to Freedom of Information requests from the RLA showed that there was no clear link between a council operating a licensing scheme for landlords and levels of enforcement.
As MPs today prepare to debate the private rented sector, the RLA is arguing that the results show that tenants and good landlords are being failed by a system unable to root out criminal landlords.
The RLA is calling for a renewed focus on enforcing the powers already available to councils.
This includes sustainable funding for enforcement departments, using council tax returns to help identify landlords and councils doing more to find and take action against 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.”
Smith’s opinion piece follows below.