Local authorities across England are spending £11m less on dealing with problem landlords than in 2009-10.
Researchers at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) found that councils spent £44.5m on housing standard activities, but government figures show this has dropped to £33.5m.
There are more than 150 Acts of Parliament, containing over 400 regulations affecting private renting, but the RLA analysis points to them not being enforced properly.
Better enforcement backed up by greater funding is key to “driving out the minority of landlords who can make life a misery for tenants and bring the sector into disrepute,” the report concluded.
The RLA concluded that the problem is cyclical – councils do not have the power or resources to “kick start the process” by bringing action against landlords who break the law and thus generate funds from penalties levied. This lack of resources stops them raising the money to fund any future action against other criminal landlords.
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A £2m fund for councils to tackle problem landlords was recently established by the government, but RLA experts “do not believe that one-off pots of money provide the certainty for councils to be able to plan long-term for enforcement action.”
John Stewart, policy manager for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Criminal landlords undermine the reputation of the decent majority, cause tenants to suffer and have no place in the sector.
“Local authorities must have the funds they need to properly enforce the wide range of powers they already have to tackle sub-standard housing and criminal behaviour. Our analysis shows that for all the warm words, councils are in desperate need of new funding to ensure this happens.
“The government should use the Spending Review to address this as a matter of urgency.”
The RLA wants the government to design a long-term funding package for councils to tackle problem landlords and present it in the forthcoming Spending Review.
Councillor Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils are doing everything they can to ensure that rogue landlords are dealt with robustly and effectively. However, as well as limited resources and competing funding pressures, councils are being hamstrung by an outdated system wracked by delays, bureaucracy and paltry fines. It can take more than a year to prosecute a rogue landlord.
“Laws governing the sector need to be simplified to free councils up from bureaucratic processes to focus on frontline work. Recently announced government funding of £2.4 million will help councils tackle rogue landlords, as will new powers for banning orders for the worst operators, and the flexibility to issue fines to private landlords as an alternative to prosecutions.
“With our housing crisis making it easier for a minority of bad landlords to exploit tenants, councils must be given a lead role in building new affordable rented homes so that people who can’t afford or choose not to buy are not forced into the more expensive private rented sector.
“With homelessness and temporary accommodation facing a funding gap of £110 million in 2019/20, we want to work with the Government to ensure the Spending Review delivers for councils, which will help improve standards in the private rented sector.”