SWINDON Borough Council has been accused of failing to protect tenants from rogue landlords after research revealed it started only one prosecution in the past three years.
Research by the Residential Landlords’ Association shows that despite receiving 738 complaints the council has served only a handful of enforcement notices since 2017.
And the council failed to use powers introduced in April 2017 to impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000 on landlords as an alternative to prosecution, and admitted it had no policy in place on issuing the new fines.
Martin Wicks, secretary of the Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group, told the Adver: “The problem faced by local councils, even if they have a will to tackle those landlords who provide inadequate living conditions, is the lack of resources for taking on such a big task.”
In October the council introduced new rules requiring landlords to get a licence for houses rented out to five or more people – known as houses of multiple occupation – to help fund more inspections and bring more rogue landlords to court.
“In Swindon I believe the environmental health officers have concentrated on HMOs because they don’t have enough staff to go much beyond that,” added Martin.
“Without more resources then landlords who provide inadequate, sub-standard accommodation, will continue to get away with it.”
David Smith, RLA policy director, said he was disappointed at the figures, adding:
“RLA research has found that the number of notices issued to landlords to warn them of hazards in a property has declined from a relatively low level of 12 in 2012 to only one last year.
“Given that the number of enforcement notices the council has served is so much lower than the volume of complaints the council must seek better use its powers that to protect tenants and root out the criminal landlords who blight lives.”
A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “The data provided by the RLA takes no account of the Council’s interventions which get housing issues resolved promptly and without the need for further action.
“The Council works very hard in a number of ways to ensure that private landlords are not able to take advantage of their tenants. We regularly advise tenants on their housing rights and make sure landlords are aware of what is required of them.
“We inspect HMOs to make sure they are in compliance with the law and we take a proactive approach to visiting properties and intervening with landlords to ensure improvements are made.
“We are currently focused on implementing the extended HMO Licensing scheme, which will ensure greater visibility and therefore enforcement in HMOs.”