Exclusive: Time to get tough on rogue landlords as complaints soar

Coun Jayne Dunn, Sheffield cabinet member for Housing
Coun Jayne Dunn, Sheffield cabinet member for Housing
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COUNCILS HAVE been urged to “get tough” on private landlords an investigation from The Yorkshire Post revealed the stark contrast between a rising complaints from tenants and decisions to prosecute.

Thousands of concerns regarding health and safety breaches, financial scams, illegal evictions, overcrowding and harassment from residents in the private rented sector are submitted every year, yet just a handful of cases are being brought before the courts.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests reveal showed Doncaster has brought just one prosecution against a landlord in the private housing sector since 2011, a period in which 2,516 complaints were made. Of those, 564 were made in the last financial year.

Almost all of the local authorities which provided the Yorkshire Post with data - including York, Bradford, York, Wakefield and Leeds has experienced increase in cases since 2011.

Reacting to the data obtained by The Yorkshire Post, independent think tank Generation Rent said figures paint telling portrait of how the county’s lack of affordable housing “is attracting lots of unscrupulous operators to the housing market”.

Policy manager Dan Wilson-Craw said: “Local councils are required to enforce health and safety standards in private rented homes, but renters don’t always know this, and councils themselves haven’t got used to the size of the sector, which has doubled in the past decade.

“Councils need to get tougher on criminal landlords – they need to encourage private renters to report cases of negligent landlords to the council.”

The news comes the wake of revelations from housing charity Shelter, which has been flooded with over 17,000 calls from tenants having problems with their landlord.

Sheffield Council has secured 27 convictions over four years, including jail sentences.

Coun Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for Housing, said: “This is something I have personal experience of myself and I know there are not many things in life as unsettling as coming home to find your landlord has changed your locks and dumped your personal belongings in the street. That is why we take illegal evictions and harassment so seriously.

“In Sheffield we have been pioneering in our work across the city to clamp down on this issue. And we will continue to send a strong and clear message to landlords and tenants that this will not be tolerated.”

Housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “The Government has introduced a range of powers to tackle rogue landlords, backed by £6.7 million of funding, which has resulted in nearly 40,000 property inspections and over 3,000 landlords facing further enforcement action or prosecution. We have made significant progress but we are determined to go even further. “