I see that as part of their manifesto, the Labour Party are threatening action and big fines against landlords who rent out sub-standard properties.
There are, of course, many landlords who rent out sub-standard properties and of course they need to be dealt with and eliminated.
But what is the best way to enforce against these people?
Bad landlords are often criminal landlords
One of the problems with the private rented sector is that because there has been so little enforcement over the years, it has attracted a large criminal element.
Most of the landlords whose properties are in the worst condition are not (as Ben is continually telling us) dozy amateur landlords but are owned (or maybe just managed) by criminals and criminal gangs.
Now if a local authority officer, Fred, comes across one of these landlords and threatens to take action against them, these criminals are not going to ‘come quietly’.
They are far more likely to take Fred on one side, point out that they know where he lives, and if he ever bothers them again they will not only break his knees but those of all of his family.
What is Fred to do? He is probably in a desperately underfunded department with few staff. He may not be well paid.
Will he feel confident enough of the support of his seniors to risk serious personal injury by proceeding against this particular landlord?
His department is probably flooded with work that they do not have time to deal with. I suspect he will just move on to another case.
Now I have no idea whether or not this does in fact happen but I would not be surprised to find it did.
Criminal landlords should not be dealt with by ordinary Council Officers. It’s not fair to expect them to deal with potentially violent offenders.
Ideally, there should be a separate organisation specialising in this work who suspected criminal landlords can be referred to. The organisation should either be a part of the police or should liaise with the police.
They should be given special powers to enter properties which are believed to be being used for criminal purposes and to close them down.
Criminals and ordinary well-meaning landlords who make an occasional mistake should not be dealt with in the same way. However, at the moment this is what happens.
This approach though will only drive the good landlords away and do nothing to stop the bad landlords – who generally ignore rules and regulations.
Who then will house the people who cannot afford to buy their own property?