On Wednesday 31 October the government wrote to all local authority chief executives urging them to make use of existing powers to tackle rogue landlords.
The letter mentioned the desire to “work together to rid the private sector of criminal landlords and raise property standards living for every tenant”.
While grammatically odd, the message is clear: local councils should be doing more.
We would very much like to.
Unfortunately, the day before sending this letter, the government rejected Brighton and Hove City Council’s proposal for selective licensing, reversing a decision to approve which it had made just five weeks earlier.
Our scheme would cover around 27,000 homes and require landlords to make homes available for inspection and adhere to conditions.
We believe our proposal will improve the private rented sector and tackle many issues but we need government approval to go ahead.
Licensing is financed by fees paid by landlords and our successful HMO (houses in multiple occupation) licensing schemes have made thousands of tenants’ homes safer, healthier and better.
However, other private rented sector work is under pressure due to government cuts.
Brighton and Hove is doing more than many other councils but without more funding we are forced into being reactive and responding to complaints.
New government measures mean little if councils don’t have the resources to make good use of them.
Many of the new measures rely on tenants taking action and we know that tenants very often feel too insecure in their homes to come forward.
The government recently announced that councils could bid for funding to tackle rogue landlords. They have made available a single one-off pot of £2 million to be shared across all councils.
An estimated 4.7 million households are now privately rented, one in five nationally. Providing a sum this tiny after years of sustained underinvestment in council services is derisory.
There was high attendance at this week’s conference of Rent Smart Brighton and Hove, a partnership supporting renters in the city.
Renters’ contributions highlighted the many problems that they face.
The council wants to do more, but we need the government to prove that we are indeed “working together”.
Councillor Daniel Yates is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.