UK
19/09/2015 05:31 BST | Updated 19/09/2015 05:59 BST

Rogue Landlords Should Be Jailed, Councils Urge

Rogue landlords who endanger the lives of their tenants should be jailed, councils have claimed.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that a small minority of landlords were "creating misery" for tenants and called for tougher punishments, according to the BBC.

Currently the strongest penalty is a fine, and while in theory these are unlimited, the average is just £1,500.

The LGA claimed that part of the problem was a lack of guidelines for magistrates, meaning landlords’ financial circumstances were taken into account.

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Councils want to see harsher punishments for rogue landlords

The resulting penalties were slammed by the association as “paltry”.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, vice chairman of the LGA, told BBC 5 live: "For a landlord who owns hundreds of houses and he gets tens of thousands of pounds every month, it's like giving a premiership footballer a speeding fine of £1,000 - it makes no difference.

"We have to have some things available to the courts to use in the most serious of circumstances."

Incidents noted included 10 people, including children, forced to live in a damp, mouse and cockroach-infested property, as well as a landlord who fined just £100 for failing to provide any fire alarms or a proper escape route for six tenants.

LGA housing spokesman councillor Peter Box told the BBC: "The courts need to punish rogue landlords proportionately and there should be a consistent standard when it comes to licensing.

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"We know that the majority of tenants in the private rented sector are satisfied with their accommodation, but that shouldn't distract from the fact there are far too many rogue landlords creating misery for people who often see themselves as having little choice but to put up with it.

"Councils are doing everything they can to tackle bad practice by rogue landlords. However, they are being hamstrung by a system racked by delays, bureaucracy and feeble fines.

"Magistrates should be able to take the seriousness of the offence into consideration and jail rogue landlords who put lives at risk. Fines must match the offence, rather than landlords' ability to pay - which is an open invitation for exploitation."

According to the Press Association, the possibility of a centralised blacklist database to identify persistent offenders was welcomed by the LGA "as long as the administrative burden and cost of compiling a list does not fall on local authorities".

The National Landlords’ Association said that it welcomed plans to punish rogue landlords but added that courts needed to be able to exercise discretion when handing out fines to ensure they could actually be paid.