Time these rogues were dispatched once and for all

Channel Four’s long running ‘Dispatches’ programme took an in-depth look at a subject very close to the NLA’s heart this week, the private-rented sector.

Entitled ‘Landlords from Hell’ and presented by veteran journalist Jon Snow, the programme sought to expose the sorry state of the private-rented sector and the shocking actions of those operating below the water-line at the murky bottom of the PRS.

The two cases highlighted were indeed shocking examples of how poorly one human being can treat his fellows in the name of business.  The two individuals showed no respect for their responsibilities as landlords and displayed utter contempt for their unfortunate tenants –seemingly without facing any considerable sanctions in return.

Above all these people showed that they do not deserve to be described as landlords.

The term ‘landlord’ may not necessarily conjure up an image of noble ideals for the majority, but so far as we are concerned it does mean something.

Being a landlord means that you have agreed to:

  • provide your tenants with a home in exchange for regular rental payments,
  • repair and maintain your tenant’s home for the duration of their tenancy,
  • to allow your tenants to live in a property free from harassment,
  • forfeit possession of a property until such time that a tenancy legally  ends,
  • show your tenants the same degree of respect that you expect to receive.

These ‘landlords from hell’ appeared to display none of the above, choosing instead, to flout the law.

In any other walk of life these people would be considered criminals and dealt with appropriately. The private-rented sector should be no different, the continued existence of these criminal rogue operators makes us all look bad.

There is no defence for these offenders, but it does beg the question; Why so few prosecutions?

There will, no doubt, be much debate following this programme about the need for more regulation of the PRS. However, is more the right response? This is not a new problem, and successive governments have introduced legislation, extended local powers, and modified the various standards regimes.

The problem is that regulation only works when it is implemented and enforced appropriately. The NLA works with such organisations to give guidance on this.

Far from being powerless, enforcement agencies have quite an arsenal at their disposal to target rogue, criminal landlords for example:

  • Environmental health officers are able to serve prohibition or improvement notices in respect of poorly maintained, or dangerous property under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) requiring emergency repairs or even closing down sufficiently poor properties.  In severe cases emergency repairs can even be carried out without the landlord’s involvement (although at his expense).
  • HHSRS allows agencies to inspect any property – regardless of tenure – allowing them to identify those landlords known to operate below the radar.
  • A local housing authority may use a management order to take control of the management of a poorly managed property, either temporarily or permanently, in circumstances where a landlord has neglected his responsibilities.
  •  Landlords who fail to appropriately license their properties can also be fined up to £20,000 and find themselves subject to a rent repayment order of many thousands more.

Not to mention the many criminal sanctions which a landlord may face if there is any allegation of harassment or illegal eviction, up to and including a custodial sentence.

The real discussion must surely be about why there is such limited enforcement of these existing powers and why instead there is an ongoing clamour for more licensing and arbitrary restrictions of accommodation when demand has never been higher.

No doubt the answer lies in funding.

We all know that enforcement against the bad guys is more expensive than blanket restrictions, but surely it would make sense for everyone if local authorities were able to used the extensive powers they already have to make an example of the very worst criminals masquerading as landlords, abusing their position, their tenants, and devaluing the term ‘landlord’.


7 thoughts on “Time these rogues were dispatched once and for all

  1. There is no point bringing in more legislation if you don’t enforce what already exists.

    It was so depressing to watch Landlords from hell last night. Those sort of landlords make us all look bad.

  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head! We all know that there are the mechanisms in place to deal with these rogue Landlords. Surely they could use the fines imposed to help with funding.

  3. If the various entities cannot enforce the current regulations how will more regulation help?

    If funding is an issue, then that says the people who allocate funding view housing violations are a low priority. Landlords do not make funding decisions.

    If the show motivates councils and other government bodies to use the laws that they already have to clean up the criminal behavior, then the show achieve something.

  4. I don’t think that this is about funding I think that it has more to do with the shortage of homes that most local authorities are facing. If they close down these dreadful landlords where will the tenants live? Most local authorities know who their bad landlords are and many would admit that these landlords often house tenants who otherwise would be homeless and they therefore ALLOW this sub culture to continue.

    For me this programme highlighted a much wider issue – illegal immagration. It was clearly shown that one of those landlords is profiting by helping illegal immagrants to obtain leave to remain in this country by putting pressure on those tenants who have passports to make false statements in support of their applications. In my opinion the landlord should have been arrested as soon as the programme was aired. We need to control immagration because we are now at crisis point to house and take care of those who are entitled to live in the UK without dealing with further burdens placed on the system bt those who are not. I am not a racist, I have no issues with people of any ethnicity just so long as they have a legal right to live here and are prepared to contribute to the economy of the country – including paying tax on the money that they earn rather than paying it to landlords who hide them.

    For those, including Jon Snow, who are calling for more legislation/regulation I agree – Immigration controls not landlord controls and support for local authorities to help them to house the homeless withouth relying in the rogue landlords who don’t care who they house or where as long as they are paid enough to do it. A good starting point would be recognition, in the legal system, for the many many good landlords who treat their tenant with respect

  5. Dispatches exposed two cases of ‘illegal’ activity by individuals not the state of the PRS as a whole.
    Most landlords act legally and responsibily as their objective is to attract the best tenants, those who look after their homes and pay their rent on time.
    In the first case the legitimate tenants could have complained of harrassment, which is a criminal offence, and to their local Environmental Health Officer about sub-standard conditions. In the second there was a complete breach of planning regulations coupled with sub-standard conditions and illegal occupants.
    What this programe exposed was a sub culture of some accomodation providers and some tenants willing to act outside the law and getting away with it.
    Responsible landlords have to ask why the enforcment bodies, in particular the local authorities, had not used their powers to act to prevent or control these situations.
    Perhaps they should concentrate less on blanket licensing, which good landlords have to pay to sign up to, plus new planning control schemes, and instead concentrate their efforts on the ample powers they have to deal with the rogues who get us all a bad name.

  6. I have had some interesting conversations with people who are not landlords but who were concerned about the content of this programme. One person asked me a good questions “Will government now be penalising the local authorities who have allowed these landlords to break the law?” It’s a good question – I wonder if there is a good answer?

    Grant Shapps made the point that local authorities have exisiting powers to control these landlords. He did not say that Government also has the means to ensure that local authories USE their powers. Government are allowing rogue landlords to profit from their activities while at the same time increasing the overheads of those of us who comply with the law. We are being commercially disadvantaged by a seeming reluctance to take the bull by the horns and rid our business of illegal operators. Would this be allowed in any other business where there are over a million honest, tax payers/voters working hard, within the law, to provide a vital service?

  7. Private landlords form a small part of the 98% of SMEs that are the economic back bone of the UK economy. NLA should respond to Jon Snow and the Government ministers and the student unions that the few rogue Landlords are nothing compared to the corrupt systems and individuals that operate outside the laws of the land which form the basis of crime in the UK – By systems is meant public institutions, legal instutions and enforcement and regulatory authorities who fail to enforce the law.and regulations as they reply it is not expedient to enforce the law and very htat most crime including drug dealing is a civil matter. It is therefore unreasonable for the 99% of honourable tax paying Landlords to expect a fair deal. Whoever shouts the loudest gets the attention right or wrong.
    Please advise Jon Snow it is high time he suppports the hard working Landlords rather than give a biased account of our industry from non tax paying individuals and students from abroad. David J.

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