Today (21st January), Brent Council is urging the government to stop rogue landlords from receiving housing benefit if they fail councils’ ‘fit and proper’ tests.
The plea to government comes after a repeatedly convicted landlord, ruled unfit to rent out property in a north London borough in 2015, has received more than £500,000 in housing benefit payments from the same council that banned him.
It was reported that a local authority is directly paying public money to a landlord whom its own officers describe as “rogue” – the latest example of the ineffective regulations designed to police the private rented sector’s worst offenders.
Bernard McGowan, who boasts a £30m property empire and was convicted six times under the Housing Act between 2014 and 2017, failed Brent council’s ‘fit and proper’ test in 2015.
The decision meant McGowan was barred from directly renting out houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) across Brent, or any home in eight of the borough’s wards where landlords specifically require a licence.
Brent council, which is known for its zero-tolerance stance against rogue landlords, is calling on the government to change the law that currently allows rogue landlords to be paid housing benefit, even if they don’t meet licensing criteria.
Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, said: “It’s completely unacceptable that landlords who flout the rules and cause misery for thousands of tenants across the country receive housing benefit.
“Today, I have written to the Minister urging him to act on this issue.
“We need the law on our side to help us protect tenants’ rights and drive up standards in the private rented sector.
She added: “Last week, Brent received a grant of over £100k, which we’ll be using to provide further support for private tenants in the battle against rogue landlords.
“But we need government to make legislative change so that we have all the tools we need.”