Government’s rogue landlord measures ‘chaotic’ – response from Hackney Council
Plans to allow private renters to claim rent refunds from rogue landlords have been branded as ‘chaotic’, after the Government’s last minute guidance left councils without time to implement the new measure.
Rent Repayment Orders will allow private renters and local councils to make claims for a refund of up to 12 months’ rent from landlords who evict tenants unlawfully, use violence to enter a home, fail to meet health and safety regulations or operate an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) illegally.
The measure was first outlined by the Government almost a year ago in last may’s Housing and Planning Act and have come into force from today (6 April 2017), alongside a separate initiative to allow Councils to fine landlords up to £30,000 for a range of housing offences. Despite the 11 month lead in time, Councils only received guidance on how the system will work on the day they came into force, and are now expected to develop their own policies before action can be taken against offenders.
We have long called for more support for private renters and for councils to be given the powers they need to take action against unscrupulous landlords. We strongly welcome the new Rent Repayment Orders and landlord fines as steps towards fixing our broken private rented sector, and have been ready and waiting to support private renters in Hackney to reclaim rent where an offence has been committed and tenants’ rights violated.
However, the chaotic implementation of the measure and belated guidance given to councils has allowed and will continue to allow rogue landlords to exploit tenants while we now rush to put Rent Repayment Orders into practice, and shows the Government’s lack of genuine commitment to helping Britain’s nine million private renters.
Instances of mistreatment of tenants by landlords are increasing as competition for properties drives down standards and leads to soaring rents. In Hackney, half of private renters say that repairs are not made when needed and that the poor condition of their home is a problem. With the average rent of a two bedroom flat now over £1,800 a month, a two bedroom household could potentially claim up to £22,000 through a Rent Repayment Order.
In the last five years the number of privately rented homes in Hackney has increased by 20%, meaning that the Government’s delay has denied over 30,000 households in the borough the opportunity to take action if mistreated by their landlords.