Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s Management Committee met earlier today to discuss a wide range of issues, including the question of the council’s approach to the private rented housing sector and specifically so-called ‘rogue landlords’
This issue had originally been raised as a Notice of Motion at Full Council back in September, when Councillor Penny McCartney (Tophill West), who is a long-standing housing campaigner, proposed that the council support the Shelter campaign (endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) to improve the lives of private renters and toughen up its policy in respect of rogue landlords.
On that occasion, several Conservative members expressed the view that approving the NOM would prove extremely expensive. Eventually the NOM was referred to the housing team to produce a report for submission to Management Committee.
Given the context of that debate I found the report quite fascinating, particularly the clarification in paragraph 6.1 that there were ‘no financial implications directly associated with the recommendations‘.
The debate on the report was robust. I was, however, rather concerned that more than one councillor attempted to switch the subject away from rogue landlords to what they termed ‘rogue tenants’: assured shorthold tenancies put the balance of power firmly into the landlord’s hands and leave most private renters in a state of constant insecurity.
I work in the advice sector and every week in my ward or my work I come into contact with people whose landlords, in Cllr Brookes’s own words, ‘sail close to the wind’.
- Landlords whose properties are damp and poorly ventilated, contributing to the ill-health of vulnerable people.
- Landlords whose properties are cold and poorly insulated, causing tenant to pay excessive heating costs.
- Landlords who fail to respect the law which should govern the tenant-landlord relationship by entering at will or by failing to protect deposits (and indeed, the report notes that only 68% of tenancy deposits in the borough are protected despite this having been a legal requirement since 2007).
- Landlords who respond to complaints by threatening the tenant with eviction rather than by addressing the problem.
- Landlords who frankly do not understand the requirements that are incumbent on them or, if they do understand, are willing to flout the law in order to make a fast buck.
Yes, as the report states, the majority of landlords are doing a good job and care about providing a decent home for their tenants but just one poor landlord is one too many and councils must not be seen to tolerate it. It was therefore heartening that, when it came to a vote, the report was adopted unamended, allowing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to sign up to the Shelter campaign to ‘evict rogue landlords’.