Khan says London councils need more power to punish bad landlords

London mayor says government needs to help borough councils deal with 180,000 private rental properties deemed ‘non-decent’, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan and (inset) damp in a home the mayor visited (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)
Sadiq Khan and (inset) damp in a home the mayor visited (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)

Sadiq Khan has urged the government to take further action in tackling rogue landlords making tens of thousands of pounds a year from damp and mouldy properties.

The London mayor said that councils still do not have enough powers to punish dodgy landlords, and that there are too few borough enforcement officers equipped with the necessary skills and legal knowledge to help tenants.

The government insists that councils are empowered to take action where necessary and that ministers are legislating to ensure tougher penalties for repeat-offending landlords – as well as working to reduce the number of non-decent homes across the country.

But on a visit yesterday (Wednesday 29th) to a property in Lewisham covered with damp and mould, Khan renewed his calls for further action to combat the problem nationally.

The property’s tenant – a pregnant young mother with two children under the age of five – was forced into temporary accommodation in September, after the flat was deemed unsafe to live in by Lewisham Council.

No remediation action has been taken by the private landlord to date, despite the tenant raising the issue a year ago. The council has banned the property from being rented out, and could take enforcement action if the landlord fails to fix the damp and mould.

Earlier this year, the mayor introduced a new element to his Better Renting Programme, specifically focused on providing training to council officers in identifying and taking action against damp and mould. The programme, launched in 2020, more generally aims to ensure local authorities are better equipped to drive up housing standards.

Khan said: “I’m not pretending this by itself is going to solve the crisis when it comes to the quality of accommodation in the private rental sector.

“We know across our city, [there are] 180,000 properties in the private rental sector which are non-decent.

“We know that those tenants are paying rents north of £3.5bn. What pains me even more than that, is half a billion pounds of that comes from housing benefit – taxpayers subsidising bad landlords.”

The mayor said he wanted to see the government introduce a ban on Section 21 notices, better known as ‘no fault’ evictions, to ensure renters don’t feel afraid of reporting damp and mould because they are worried about a retaliatory eviction.

He also called on ministers to increase rent repayment orders – legal orders which require rogue private landlords to pay back rent to tenants for various offences – from twelve months to two years’ worth of rent as a deterrent.

A new City Hall analysis reveals that in the case of a tenant paying the average London asking rent of £2,627 a month, Khan’s proposals could mean a pay-out of up to £63,000 for the worst-offending landlords.

A spokeswoman at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “The small minority of criminal landlords who exploit their tenants can already be punished by councils and rightly should be.

“Our landmark Renters Reform Bill will ensure that landlords who repeatedly don’t live up to obligations to their tenants can be prosecuted or fined up to £30,000.

“It will also apply a Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time, helping to meet the target of reducing non-decent rented homes by 50% by 2030.”

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