Councils failing to inspect hazardous housing


Just a third of complaints raised by renters about potentially hazardous properties led to an inspection, highlighting that some rogue landlords are being allowed to get away with housing their tenants in poor conditions.

That is according to Freedom of Information data obtained by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) for between 2021 and 2023.

Half of all inspections conducted under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) were carried out by just 20 local authorities, while 16% of councils were unable to provide any inspection figures.

In a worrying sign of poor recordkeeping, 37% of councils were unable to provide any housing tenure specific data related to tenant complaints.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “No renters should ever have to put up with unsafe housing. Whilst ultimately it is landlords who are responsible for the quality of the housing they provide, tenants must have confidence in councils’ ability to act when renters require assistance.

“Our research paints a worrying picture of councils under strain struggling to respond as they should to tenant complaints. In addition, many do not have the data needed to track enforcement activity properly.

“Calls for new laws to tackle rogue and criminal landlords are distracting from the fact that councils routinely fail to make the best use of the powers available to them. The focus must be on swift, consistent enforcement. This is in the interest of households and responsible landlords.”

Where hazards are found following an inspection, councils have a range of enforcement options, including issuing an Improvement Notice to compel a landlord to rectify whatever problems are identified. Landlords are then prohibited from serving a section 21, ‘no-fault’ possession notice for six months.

Despite this, between 2021 and 2023, just 7% of HHSRS inspections led to an Improvement Notice being served. Over 50% of such notices were served by just 20 local authorities, while 23 councils had served no notices.

To support improved enforcement against rogue and criminal landlords, the NRLA called on the next government to urgently publish the promised review of the HHSRS.

The association said councils should be required to publish annual reports on their enforcement activity in respect of the private rented sector and how it is helping to address poor practice and sub-standard housing

The NRLA also called for the creation of a new national chief environmental health officer to aid better enforcement.

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