Councils call for more power over landlords

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Local councils should be given the power to license and fine private landlords in order to improve the quality of rented housing stock, according to a report.

More than a third of privately rented homes fail the government’s quality measure the Decent Homes Standard, official figures show. The private rented sector has grown rapidly in recent years and more people now live in private rented homes than social housing.

But councils have few powers to intervene, according to a survey of 178 councils by the Local Government Information Unit and the Electrical Safety Council.

Almost 80 per cent of respondents said they wanted to become more involved in the private rented sector in their area, in particular by being given the power to introduce compulsory accreditation schemes for landlords.

Councils also want better access to data on the locations of private rented homes, and the power to reclaim housing benefit payments from landlords with substandard housing, the survey found.

Phil Buckle, chief executive of the ESC, said that more than half of all domestic fires were caused by electrical accidents. “[But] landlords are not required to have the electrics in their rented properties checked, or provide tenants with safety certificates,” he said.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, said: “While the majority of private rented sector properties meet appropriate standards, a minority of landlords actively pursue criminal activity to the detriment of those living in their properties. Councils must play a key role in tackling poor standards.”

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