Anti-social behaviour

Category: prs

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents around 90% of councils, has responded to the government’s formal consultation of the Decent Homes Standard (DHS) by calling for failure to comply with the DHS to be a criminal offence and for councils to have the power to issue civil penalties to the non-compliant.

The recommended ‘punishments’ include fines, bans and even jail time, for landlords who fail to keep their properties in line with the DHS.

The latest announcement comes as a further blow to the landlord community, where they’re once again being punished for the unlawful acts of a small minority of landlords.

Since the rogue landlords banned list came into effect in April 2018, less than 70 property agents and landlords have been entered into the list. Of the thousands of registered landlords in the UK, this is a very small number, suggesting that there is a very small minority of landlords, or more concerningly, that there is a failure by the councils to crack down on rogue landlords.

If the councils are already lacking in manpower to enforce the existing rules, surely the same issue will be present if they implement further powers?

Part of the LGA’s statement recommends that “the new burden should be assessed on the basis of funding additional staff to undertake it. Without additional staff being supported through new burdens funding, the same number of officers will be required to undertake an even greater number of responsibilities”.

While this addresses the issue, it also puts further costs onto the already shallow pockets of the councils and may see cutbacks in other areas, or an ongoing lack in capacity to act on any new powers, unless additional funding is forthcoming from central government.

How this affects landlords

The majority of landlords support the elimination of the minority of ‘rogues’, as they bring the industry into disrepute.

However, landlords are already under strain due to the upcoming changes in the Renter’s Reform Bill, and a plethora of changes that have already been imposed upon them. So, introducing more laws which underline a sentiment of negativity towards landlords could see more switching to short-term lets, or pulling out of the market entirely. The LGA has responded by suggesting that:

“To mitigate the risk of landlords exiting the private rented sector or passing the costs of meeting the DHS on to tenants, an extended implementation timeframe would be appropriate. An 18-month transition period will be sufficient to mitigate the risk”

Though they have added a caveat by requesting that:

“All elements of the DHS should come in at the same time – the LGA does not support phasing and it states that 18 months is already a lengthy period of time to adapt to the new responsibilities and phasing may result in confusion and inconsistency.”

What about rogue tenants?

For years there have been concerns that the private rental sector favours tenants over landlords, with all new rules implemented suggesting landlords are the problem and ignoring the fact that some tenants can be rogue also.

The upcoming Fairer Rental White Paper seems to confirm this suspicion, with further changes being imposed to make renting easier on tenants while causing further stress and strain for landlords.

The removal of Section 21 evictions has already implied landlords will lose their rights to reclaim their properties, leaving some concerned with how they will deal with tenants who refuse to pay rent, cause significant damage to the property or are a nuisance to neighbours.

Many landlords have called for a balancing of the scales, through the introduction of similar penalties for rogue tenants.