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alarming conditions; “We are talking about properties with fire escape doors opening out onto three-storey drops and without proper front doors, so tenants have discovered strangers sleeping on their sofas. Rogue landlords are calculating they can keep these going while the cash comes in and walk away after a year with effectively a slap on the wrist. "While most landlords are reputable – and local authorities want

to work with them – there are a growing minority of criminal operators and the current system simply is not designed to tackle them effectively.” The LGA claims that In many cases councils are being left out of

pocket because they are not even recovering the costs of bringing the prosecutions, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill. Paul Shamplina says: “There needs to be a more streamlined

down by the bad ones. The call for tougher action against criminal landlords has been

broadly welcomed by industry professionals. Dan Channer, Managing Director of Finders Keepers, Oxfordshire's largest let- ting agency, said; “We support increased penalties for flouting the laws. If a penalty is seen as a ‘cost of doing business’ then it is not fit for purpose – a penalty should deter behaviour. Greater negative consequences would help create a much-needed differentiation between unethical and ‘rogue’ landlords and the vast majority who obey the rules and want to treat their tenants well.” Cllr Mike Jones says that in addition to low fines the councils are

held back by inefficient processes; "Councils are doing everything they can to tackle the rising levels of rogue landlords caused by the housing crisis. However, they are being hamstrung by a system wracked by delays, bureaucracy and feeble fines. "We need a new streamlined system which is much fairer, faster,

more efficient and treats the criminal abuse of tenants seriously. Prosecution in its current state simply is not seen as an effective deterrent by rogue operators.” Nyree Applegarth, partner in Higgs and Sons’ Solicitor’s Property

Dispute Resolution team, believes the current system is ineffec- tive; “Many times, non-compliant landlords don’t have any regard to their legal obligations and serially work on the basis that the costs, even if they are pursued, are still much less than if they com- ply fully. They have little regard to the often insanitary or unsafe conditions people are forced to live in, and are simply interested in rent collections. “Any proposal to improve the situation is welcomed, but even

if the Courts suddenly had extra resource to hear cases more quickly, the judiciary need to be given the power to impose fines at much higher levels, before they would even start to be taken seriously by landlords. “Councils should be given the ability to take an automatic charge

on the property to secure payment of any fine and costs order. This should be a streamlined process whereby a Council could enter the charge within 14 days of the judgment if the monies were unpaid.” Mike Jones from the LGA says his members have encountered

system. I would suggest having their own criminal court listings so they are dealt with more efficiently – i.e. in the civil courts we have landlord and tenant court hearings.” Paul also supports calls for tougher measures such as naming and shaming and a properly governed three strikes and out policy. Shamplia concludes; “It is evident that more needs to be done

to adapt to the ever-growing buy-to-let market and as an industry we need to be more forward thinking. For example when financial pressures on some landlords increase with the inevitable rise of in- terest rates, we may see more landlords cutting corners. Having a clearer mandate by the LGA can only help the industry as a whole.” It is clear that the letting industry would support councils get-

ting tougher on criminal landlords, however, there is a lack of consensus on the best way forward. Politically, it is likely that the LGA’s demands would find favour in Westminster, so it is possible things could change.

"there are a growing minority of criminal operators and the current system simply is not designed to tackle them effectively"

An ambitious solution has been put forward by Simon

Thompson, Managing Director of Accommodation for Students. Simon believes

that preventing rogue landlords operating

through licensing of properties provides a definitive way to stop rogue landlords. He says; “The best way to deal with rogue landlords is to ensure that all landlords are accredited and their properties physically inspected by a trained verifier prior to being made available for rent, i.e. in order to let a property it must first become accredited. Only by doing this can we ensure that rogue landlords don’t exist and all properties are safe to let.” Tell us your views: email marking

your subject Editors Letter and include your name and address, or post Editor, Landlord & Buy to Let Magazine, 117 Chestergate, Macclesfield SK11 6DP. £50 prize for star letter.

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4 Landlord & Buy-to-Let Issue 49 • July 2014

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