Essex councils ‘could do more’ to deal with rogue landlords in county
- Credit: Archant
Councils in Essex received more than 1,200 complaints against private landlords last year – but prosecuted just two.
The figures obtained by from Freedom of Information requests made by the Residential Landlords Association revealed a total of 1,221 complaints were made to Essex councils against rogue landlords in 2017/18.
But just two landlords were prosecuted, by Southend-on-Sea council.
Chelmsford received 53 complaints against private landlords in 2017/2018. It carried out 63 HHSRS inspections in that time.
A spokeswoman for Chelmsford City Council said: “The rental sector is an important part of the housing available in Chelmsford and the vast majority of rented properties are well managed and maintained. However, from time to time the council finds it has to intervene to make sure that a property doesn’t present a hazard to the people living there.
“We always advise tenants to raise their concerns in writing to their landlord or agent in the first instance. Our officers will usually also notify a landlord about the nature of the complaint and give them the opportunity to resolve it. In most cases, no formal intervention is needed.
“However, in some cases we do take formal action under the Housing Act 2004. If a landlord fails to comply with the requirements of an improvement or prohibition notice, prosecution would follow.
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“We also deal with complaints of harassment and investigate cases of alleged illegal eviction. As well as being subject to possible prosecution, landlords who are convicted of failing to comply with notices, threatening tenants with violence or illegally evicting them can also find themselves listed on the National Register of Rogue Landlords, or may be given a ‘Banning Order’ that prevents them from renting out property.”
Councils have civil penalty powers to impose fines of up to £30,000 as an alternate measure to prosecution.
The figures show that no landlords in Essex were served civil penalties in 2017/18.
Jacky Peacock, director at Advice4Renters, said: “Local authority budgets have been stripped to the bone but still, they all could be doing much more. Many of these things that councils can impose are duties not laws, so they don’t have to impose them.”