Councils across the country were given a £4m cash boost in December to tackle rogue landlords in their area – but has anything changed?
In January, Channel 4 News heard from Gemma Jupe, a former tenant of the controversial landlord Fergus Wilson, who had taken a business decision to evict all of his tenants who were in receipt of benefits, because so many of them were in rent arrears.
When Gemma contacted her landlord over a faulty radiator he discovered she was on benefits, and she was told she would have to leave three months later after the New Year, even though she had never been late paying the rent.
Mr Wilson told Channel 4 News that, given he had the right to evict Gemma immediately, “we could not have been kinder to her.”
Mr Wilson, who says he has five applicants for every property he rents, added:
“I am most concerned to see that Gemma Jupe has been identified in the media, because life is life and any future landlord will be reluctant to take her as a tenant.
“The best advice I can give to any tenant in these circumstances, is keep your head down – do not identify yourself in the media, so that you don’t put any other landlord off taking you.”
Following our interview with Gemma, other tenants got in touch to complain about their landlords. They wanted to remain anonymous, because they were afraid of being blacklisted by other landlords in the future.
My landlord was notorious in Portsmouth as a cheap, corner-cutting wide boy; when a window broke he’d replace it with cardboard, when the side of the house started buckling, he propped it up with scaffolding for a year and rented out the storage cupboard as a single room – Tracey [name has been changed]
We moved into a flat in Twickenham in March – in September water came pouring through the light fitting in the hallway – the landlords just told me to put a bucket underneath. We were told that if we didn’t like it, we could leave and that plenty of people would like our flat – Lucy [name has been changed]
Twenty three councils shared the £4m so they could take on the “unscrupulous Scrooges” who force their tenants to live in squalid and dangerous properties, making their lives a misery.
And new legislation, which came into force in December, enable courts to take account of landlords’ assets, as well as their income, when levying fines for housing offences.
So how are the councils that got the extra funding spending it? Channel 4 News takes a look around the country.
Do you live in one of these areas, or have you experienced rogue landlords? Tweet @Channel4News to let us know.
Nottingham City Council won £124,000 funding in January to tackle people who run overcrowded or poor quality accommodation in the city. The funding will pay for an “intelligence hub” to gather information about where regulations are being breached and where unsuitable housing is located.
A social media site to raise awareness of the problem will be developed and a method devised for the public to report rogue landlords. Training for landlords about how to stay within licence and safety regulations will also be provided. Extra enforcement officers to carry out raids and inspections are also due to be recruited.
Barnsley Council received £230,000. The Council identified the areas as “hotspots” where they think “rogue landlords” may be operating. Operations are planned involving the council, police, firefighters, probation service and benefit and energy checks.
The crackdown will also include inspections, an accreditation of landlords scheme, the enforcement of repairs where work isn’t done voluntarily and encouraging owners to bring empty homes back into use.
A pair of Devon landlords in Januray were fined over £6,000 and ordered to pay costs after being prosecuted over repeated failures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of their tenants in Newquay.
Bournemouth and Poole councils were given £134,000 from the government following a joint bid to help fund work targeting landlords who are guilty of not managing their properties properly and protecting tenants.
The cash funding will be used to gather further intelligence on the rogue landlords to determine how they are operating and take action against those landlords whose properties are poorly managed in terms of property conditions and where landlords treat tenants badly, such as illegal evictions or not returning deposits and take formal action, including prosecuting the worst landlords to improve conditions for tenants.
No councils in the north east were offered money to tackle rogue landlords, Ajay Jagota, who works for KIS Lettings, said.
He said: “Much as I would like to see it as a vote of confidence in the north-east’s landlords – and it would be completely deserved in all but a handful of cases if it was – it is very disappointing to see every single council in the region ignored and overlooked,” he said.
Coming up on Channel 4 News: a generation of young renters ask “where can I afford to live?” watch the teaser below: