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Government publish new guidance for councils on tackling criminal landlords

Friday, March 13, 2015

New government guidance should help council housing officers take effective action to tackle poor and illegal practices by landlords and letting agents.

Published on 13 March 2015, the DCLG guidance “Improving the private rented sector and tackling bad practice: a guide for local authorities” updates and replaces the previous rogue landlord guidance from 2012.

The guidance provides advice on the identification of criminal landlords and how to gather local knowledge of the private rented sector.

Where criminal landlords and letting agents are identified, advice is provided on how to build a case and present evidence for their effective prosecution. A section is included on post court action and how criminal landlords and letting agents can be removed from the private rented sector. The annexes include guidance on letting agent redress schemes and letting agent fees.

In the foreword to the guidance, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP says:

Whilst the majority of landlords are diligent and responsible, there are a small minority of landlords who ignore their obligations and knowingly rent out unsafe and overcrowded accommodation. These criminal landlords are exploiting vulnerable tenants, who just want a safe place to call home. In extreme cases, criminal landlords have links to organised crime, gangmaster activity and human trafficking.

“This cannot continue unchecked, as these activities undermine the work of good landlords and harm the sector’s reputation.

“Approaches to tackling criminal landlords can be varied, this guidance draws on a wide a range of experience from local authorities; offering practical advice on how to identify and effectively prosecute criminal landlords.

Within London, the guidance includes case studies from Hounslow, Lambeth, Newham and Redbridge Councils, together with a case study on the London Rental Standard. Running to 62 pages, the guidance should be a useful guide for council officers.