The Independent View: tackling bad landlords

With more and more people relying on the private rented sector for their housing, the Liberal Democrats will be looking to develop a workable policy that supports tenants and encourages good landlords.

Last year Caroline Pidgeon from the Greater London Assembly published startling research. It showed that in the whole of 2015/16, just 411 landlords had been prosecuted across the capital, with a quarter of all boroughs not prosecuting any landlord at all. This is despite there being over 400 regulations governing the sector.

This highlights that the problem of tackling bad landlords is in large part due to regulations not being properly enforced, rather than a lack of rules in general.

The RLA, in its election manifesto, is calling for long term funding for council enforcement supported by the new civil penalties they can charge criminal landlords under the Housing and Planning Act.

In 2014, Lord Shipley quoted a report produced for the RLA, which noted that “too much resource goes into regulating good landlords and too little in tackling bad landlords.” He was right. We need to be smarter in tackling the crooks who have no place in a modern rental market.

To enable councils to focus on rooting out the bad landlords there should be a system of co-regulation. This would enable the majority of good landlords to self-regulate, with independent dispute resolution to protect tenants. Local authorities can then identify and chase after those not registered.

We all want to see longer letting terms which give tenants more security. One of the deterrents to this is that landlords are faced with the prospect of an average of 43 weeks to repossess a property where a tenant is not paying their rent or is committing anti-social behaviour.

We need to address the long, expensive court processes that landlords and tenants face in seeking to uphold their rights. The RLA is calling for the establishment of new, specialist housing courts. Tenants could use them to ensure their contractual rights are enforced where landlords are not meeting them, and landlords could use them to more quickly regain possession of their properties where tenants are not behaving or are failing to pay their rent. This will help to give landlords the confidence they need to provide longer term tenancies and allow tenants to obtain their rights without relying on local authorities.

The manifestos for this election need to recognise the private rental market as a key part of tackling the housing crisis, with the majority of good landlords being partners, rather than scape goats.

We can then work with the next government to address the biggest issue, which is the shortage of rented accommodation in many areas which drives up rents and reduces choices for tenants. The RLA has a suite of policies to boost supply including bringing smaller plots of unused public sector land and empty properties into use for private rental homes, coupled with positive taxation policies that promote growth. We hope that they can be supported by the Liberal Democrats.

* Alan Ward is Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association. It tweets @RLA_News. Its manifesto for the private rented sector is available on its website.

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9 Comments

  • Interesting article. You may want to define RLA a bit higher up – took me a while to work it out.

  • Thank you Alan.
    We need to get away form the evil landlord, poor oppressed and mistreated tenant stereotype. Bad landlords need to be brought to heel and driven out. Good landlords need to be supported against bad tenants. Unfortunately the legislation and constant tinkering in this area has led to the good landlords being driven out instead. I would be interested to know where you stand on tenant fees. ‘RLA = Residential Landlords Association’ to save others the time.

  • Tinkering with ‘the market’ is not the answer. There needs to be a massive expansion of Council housing, something all governments have failed to do over the last sixty years.

  • David Raw 4th May ’17 – 2:23pm……Tinkering with ‘the market’ is not the answer. There needs to be a massive expansion of Council housing, something all governments have failed to do over the last sixty years……

    Agreed…Council housing with NO RIGHT TO BUY…. Corbyn has promised 500,000 over 5 years… will he do it; who knows, but it is a policy worth getting behind instead of LDV’s constant, broad brush, “Labour’s weird policies”…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th May '17 - 4:33pm

    Yes a massive expansion of council housing.

    But why not have a radical policy of true homes for ownership for all.

    The Tories just talk about it and rely on the market

    Labour merely tinker with it

    We could have an extension of the rent to buy idea, to mean, not no right to buy, in housing associations, or council houses,currently a policy that makes sense due to complete lack of supply, but lets have ownership for tenants , not buy and sell, stay and own.

    I lost my house

    I rent

    Lousy

    Demoralising!

  • Lorenzo Cherin, How do you stop “Buy to Sell” in council house when the “Right to Buy” exists?
    Several friends of mine paid for the house, at a massive discount, their parents lived in….Parents die; children inherit house; sell house…Whatever they get for the house is pure profit; they don’t care what happens to it after that….House becomes ‘buy to let’ at Landlord (not council) rent…
    Thatcher’s political ‘swizz’ is a major cause of the housing shortage…How can councils afford to build houses when, due to long council tenancy in another property, the tenant can buy it at a massive discount?
    The concept of council homes was twofold…1) A home for those who could not afford to buy or pay private sector rents…2) A home for families who would save for their own property when the house would revert to the council and the cycle continue…

  • A Social Liberal 4th May '17 - 7:51pm

    A Lib Dem housing policy should include the following points.

    *Reducing HA and council rents back to one which covers maintenance and repairs, with levels of central government grants returning to pre austerity levels. Typically social rents used to be 55-60%

    *Bring back a fair rents scheme so that private landlords cannot carry on ripping off government and tenants.

    *Begin a massive social house building scheme.

    *Stop councils building housing to sell

    *End right to buy

  • Cllr Ron Tindall 7th May '17 - 10:15am

    The only long-term solution to bad housing is to build 300,000 homes a year and it cannot be left just to the market. We have to support major increases in council building for both rent and sale.

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