The Tory promise to crack down on “rogue” landlords is a sham.
The government set up a register six months ago to track landlords who openly flout the law. Councils are supposed to update the register with landlords’ details. Yet not one entry has been added.
And the Tories were also trying to stop public access to the list, until being forced to backtrack on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government had claimed it wasn’t “in the public interest” for the list to be public – or to explain why it was to remain secret.
Theresa May later pledged that the list would be publicly available.
There are more than 10,500 “rogue” landlords, who fail to provide adequate housing for tenants, operating in England alone according to the government’s own estimate. But it expects just a few hundred of these to be added to the register.
Tory housing minister Heather Wheeler said, “We have provided authorities with new enforcement tools to help them crack down on the minority of landlords who exploit tenants.”
Yet landlords with convictions for housing offences or who have failed “fit and proper” tests are allowed to keep operating, the Guardian newspaper and ITV News found.
Under current legislation landlords can fail the “fit and proper” test in one local authority, and continue renting out property elsewhere.
One such landlord, Bernard McGowan, has a property empire worth £30 million. He’s been convicted of housing offences six times since 2014. He failed the “fit and proper” test in Brent, north London, but continues to rent out homes in Camden, Newham and Hertfordshire.
And rogue landlords can carry on renting out homes in the local authority area they were convicted in if they do it through a third party.
The Tories have refused to provide resources for more inspections. Housing services have been cut to the bone.
Groups who have campaigned for private landlord licensing have had years of work spat back in their faces.
Labour MP Chris Williamson tweeted, “Current housing law isn’t fit for purpose. It allows rogue landlords to run riot.
“I raised an example in parliament last week, where tenants in my constituency had been served with eviction notices in time for Christmas.”
But the law suits the purposes of the landlords, by helping them line their pockets instead of ensuring ordinary people get decent housing.
That’s why the demand for a mass programme of council house building, with more democratic accountability for tenants, is so important.