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Effective Enforcement

Rooting out criminal landlords instead of penalising good ones



Everyone deserves a right to live in a decent home and in most cases tenants do. However, there is a small number of criminal landlords who provide substandard, unsafe homes. These criminals are often the cause of people saying that the sector is unregulated but this could not be further from the truth. There are over 150 acts of parliament that create over 400 legal obligations on a landlord. The vast majority of landlords are committed to providing good quality and follow all of these obligations.

However, where the tiny minority of criminal landlords ignore the law, it is up to the local authority to use their significant enforcement powers to root these criminals out of the sector. Our research is showing that unfortunately this is not the case. Despite civil penalties providing effective funding for them, only 11% of local authorities had served a civil penalty notice in 2018. More than half did not even have a policy in place to use them. Similarly, 67% of local authorities had also not attempted to prosecute a landlord in that time. The end result is that, outside London, enforcement is often non-existant.

Instead of using their powers to identify and tackle the small number of criminals, local authorities often prefer to penalise good landlords through blanket licensing schemes that have little to no effect. This serves to increase the costs on the majority of landlords who wish to provide good quality homes, while doing nothing to the criminal landlords who will continue to ignore their legal obligations.

What is the RLA calling for?

  • Restrictions on using landlord licensing until the local authority can prove they are using their existing enforcement powers
  • Standardised enforcement policies so the law is applied consistently and fairly across the country
  • Better use of data to tackle criminal landlords
  • Properly resourced local authorities


The RLA is calling for local authorities to use the extensive enforcement powers they already have. Licensing schemes do not have any impact on criminal landlords and only increase the costs for tenants and the bureaucratic burden on good landlords.

At a time of budget cuts, it makes no sense for them not to use their powers. Local authorities can issue civil penalty notices for up to £30,000 to criminal landlords. Crucially, they get to keep this money for their own budgets to allow them to better enforce standards across the board. However our research has shown that few local authorities are using these powers, preferring instead to hamper the sector with unnecessary selective licensing schemes.

Research Provided by RLA PEARL. See more

Number of civil penalties notices issued against landlords in 2018
Local authorities that did not issue a civil penalty notice in 2018
Civil penalty amount local authorities keep for their budgets

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The RLA is believes that more funding should be made available for local authorities to ensure that they have enough resources to tackle poor quality housing without the need to introduce unnecessary licensing schemes to fund enforcement action.  

There is also little to indicate that selective licensing works. Our recent report on local authority enforcement also looked at licensing scheme effectiveness. We identified that there was no significant difference in the number of inspections for hazards or taking action against landlords before and after the introduction of a selective licensing scheme.

Instead of licensing, local authorities should be making better use of the wide range of data they can already access for enforcement. Data from council tax, housing tenure, housing benefit payments, the electoral roll and land registry records can help them target and identify criminal landlords. Proper enforcement would elimintate the need for licensing as they could target the actual offenders with a scalpel, rather than attacking the area with a hammer.


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Thousands of landlords face fines or prosecution for failing to get the right licences - The Times

Council licencing scheme unlawful says RLA - Coventry Telegraph

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