£4 million government initiative to clean up the private rental sector

Channel 4 News has renewed its assault on rogue landlords in a report on the £4 million government initiative to clean up the sector.

Councils across the country were given the money in December to tackle local rogue landlords, and Thursday’s report looked at how well the money was spent.

It featured interviews with disgruntled tenants, and a call for tenants to report more rogue landlords to its special hotline.

Last month, Channel 4 News interviewed Gemma Jupe, a former tenant of the controversial landlord Fergus Wilson, who had decided to evict all of his tenants who were in receipt of benefits, because so many were in arrears.

When Gemma contacted her landlord over a faulty radiator he discovered she was on benefits, and told her to leave three months later, even though she had never been late paying the rent.

Wilson told Channel 4 News that he had the right to evict Gemma immediately, adding that “we could not have been kinder to her.”

He claimed to have five applicants for every property he rents.

Wilson said: “I am most concerned to see that Gemma Jupe has been identified in the media, because life is life and any future landlord will be reluctant to take her as a tenant.

“The best advice I can give to any tenant in these circumstances, is keep your head down, do not identify yourself in the media, so that you don’t put any other landlord off taking you.”

Following the interview with Jupe, other tenants got in touch with Channel 4 to complain about their landlords. They wanted to remain anonymous, because they were afraid of being blacklisted by other landlords in the future.

One landlord was described in the programme as “notorious in Portsmouth as a cheap, corner-cutting wide boy”.

The anonymous tenant said: “When a window broke he’d replace it with cardboard, when the side of the house started buckling, he propped it up with scaffolding for a year and rented out the storage cupboard as a single room.”

Another tenant complained: “We moved into a flat in Twickenham in March, in September water came pouring through the light fitting in the hallway, but the landlords just told me to put a bucket underneath.

“We were told that if we didn’t like it, we could leave and that plenty of people would like our flat.”

Channel 4 said Nottingham City Council, which won £124,000 of funding to tackle people who run overcrowded or poor quality accommodation, was spending the money on an ‘intelligence hub’ to gather information about breaches of regulations and unsuitable housing.

It is also providing training for landlords about how to meet licence and safety regulations, and recruiting extra enforcement officers to carry out raids and inspections.

Barnsley Council, which received £230,000, is identifying rogue landlord “hotspots” and planning operations involving the council, police, firefighters, probation service and benefit and energy checks.

The crackdown will also include inspections, an accreditation of landlords scheme, the enforcement of repairs where work isn’t done voluntarily, and encouraging owners to bring empty homes back into use.

Bournemouth and Poole councils are planning to spend £134,000 on targeting landlords who are guilty of not managing their properties properly and protecting tenants.

The cash will be used to gather further intelligence on the rogue landlords to determine how they are operating and take action against landlords who rent out properties in poor condition or treat tenants badly, for example, through illegal evictions and failing to return deposits.