New measures will clamp down on criminal landlords who trap and cram vulnerable tenants in unsafe, overcrowded homes, Brandon Lewis announced.
Proposals will help councils tackle the problem head-on and bring an end to ruthless landlords who exploit their tenants and charge them extortionate rents to live in cramped conditions.
A new discussion paper published on Friday, sets out plans to improve standards of the England’s shared homes by extending mandatory licensing to smaller and medium sized properties. Where a landlord fails to obtain a licence they are liable to pay a potentially unlimited fine.
While the vast majority of landlords comply with the law and provide a good service, some unscrupulous owners are exploiting the most vulnerable people in our society by providing illegal and unsafe homes.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said “It is simply unacceptable that people are living in cramped, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords who are more interested in a quick profit than the safety or welfare of their tenants.”
“The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working, benefit fraud, and illegal immigration by creating a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people’s health as well as communities.”
“The government is determined to crack down on rogue landlords and these measures, alongside those in the Housing Bill, will further strengthen councils’ powers to tackle poor-quality privately rented homes in their area.”
The proposals intend to make it easier for local authorities to raise standards in houses used as shared homes by:
- making the rules apply to more shared homes, including those that are 1-2 storeys; current rules apply to homes of 3 storeys
- ensuring rules apply to poorly converted blocks of flats and flats above and below shops, which are often exempt
- setting a minimum size of rooms in line with existing overcrowding standards
In addition the government is reviewing the information requirements when applying for a licence in order to simplify and speed up the process.
Friday’s announcement for more robust licensing complements wider government efforts to crack down on rogue landlords who cash in on renting out homes to illegal immigrates.
New rules set out in the Housing Bill will require private landlords will enable local authorities to take strong action against rogue landlords and letting agents, including:
- creating a database of rogue landlords and letting agents, helping councils to focus their enforcement action on where it is most needed, and keeping track of those who have been convicted of housing offences
- seeking banning orders for the most prolific and serious offenders
- issuing civil penalty notices of up to £5,000 for certain breaches of housing legislation, ring-fencing resources for housing compliance activity
- extending rent repayment orders to cover situations where a tenant has been illegally evicted or the landlord has failed to rectify a serious health and safety hazard in the property, and allowing local authorities to retain that money for housing purposes where the rent was paid through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit
- applying a more stringent ‘fit and proper’ person test for landlords letting out licensed properties, such as houses in multiple occupation, to help ensure that they have the appropriate skills to manage such properties and do not pose a risk to the health and safety of their tenants.