A body representing over 370 local councils in England and Wales wants more powers to control the private rental sector, letting agents and landlords - and says magistrates should have the right to jail the worst offenders.
The Local Government Association claims that all too often the sector has been, in its words, “ripping off tenants” and says that councils’ own licensing schemes have not rooted out rogue landlords who then “have shrugged off paltry fines” when taken to court.
The LGA now wants tougher sentencing guidelines for magistrates and a wider range of penalties. It also says it backs the government’s call for a blacklist of rogue operators - but wants to know how this will be funded.
The association has put forward a series of recommendations including:
- the introduction of sentencing guidelines on housing offences as a priority to ensure consistent and appropriate fines. It also says the Housing Act could be amended to bring in a new range of penalties from a fine up to a community order or custodial sentence;
- a blacklist of persistent offenders would be useful to councils to support the issuing of licenses to landlords and other enforcement work, as long as the administrative burden and cost of compiling a list does not fall on local authorities;
- the ‘fit and proper person’ test for landlords should be strengthened to provide a clear framework to remove the uncertainty for councils and landlords and to provide a robust basis for accepting or refusing a license;
- the government should amend the notice period and compensation arrangements for Article 4 planning powers so that councils can respond effectively to local concerns over concentrations of houses in multiple occupation;
- councils should be given ‘power to direct’ surplus public land to improve the quality of the private rented sector through large scale investment.
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