Help us face down lethal landlords, council tells DCLG

An East London council has urged Whitehall chiefs to strengthen powers to tackle rogue landlords.

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Newham Council, which has been locked in battle for months with the DCLG, called for greater local flexibility to tackle slum landlords and an end to uncertainty over its borough-wide landlord licensing scheme. The initiative is currently in limbo after the council was forced by the department to consult with residents.

The scheme was introduced in 2013, designating the whole borough as a housing zone under the 2004 Housing Act. Since then Newham has made 1,072 prosecutions and issued 415 cautions. It has also reclaimed nearly £2.5m in unpaid council tax.

But it has been opposed by private landlords and the DCLG. Then housing minister Brandon Lewis preferred voluntary accreditation and imposed rules giving him sign off on any scheme which “would cover more than 20% of privately rented homes”.

London deputy mayor, James Murray, has given his support to the Newham scheme, but has called for the GLA to be given the power to sign off similar schemes across the capital.

Murray said: “It has not been just a licensing scheme for its own sake but has been enforced actively, which has really made the most of that opportunity. We have been keen to work with boroughs and to support them.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, gave Newham a show of support last month by joining a criminal landlord enforcement raid in the borough.

He also announced plans for a database of slum landlords.

Khan said: “I refuse to stand by as thousands of Londoners suffer sky-high rents and horrendous living conditions in a city they call home. The vast majority of landlords treat renters well – but a minority are exploiting their tenants and it’s simply unacceptable. This must stop now.”

Anne Baxendale, Shelter’s director of communications, said: “As well as building more genuinely affordable homes in the longer term, it’s vital that action is taken make renting fit for purpose in the immediate term.”

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, told 24housing that Whitehall should not decide how to enforce against slum landlords: “Landlords who rip-off and endanger their tenants should never be allowed to operate. It is a sad reality that every week, our private sector housing team unearths yet further examples of housing crime perpetuated against vulnerable tenants.

“The Newham experiment has shown that with political will, local authorities using local knowledge, local staff and local enforcement are the best placed to police the public rented sector – and drive rogue landlords out of business.”