War of words as Shelter calls for 'rogue' landlord summit

Homeless charity Shelter and the Residential Landlords Association have clashed swords over the issue of bad landlords, whilst Shelter has called on the Government for a 'rogue' landlord summit.

While both organisations have used strong words in the last few days to call for more action by the authorities to stamp out bad landlords, the RLA has accused Shelter of using emotional clichés which could rebound on tenants. In particular the RLA has criticised Shelter for using the word 'rogue',saying it belittles what is really 'criminal' activity.

The exchange began after Shelter launched a ‘five-point’ action plan on its website, saying housing minister Grant Shapps ‘should stop talking about stamping out rogue landlords and start taking action’.

The charity asks: Is the housing minister doing enough to evict rogue landlords?

So far, 10% of respondents have replied ‘yes’ and 90% have said ‘no’.

Shelter’s five-point plan is based, it says, on 86,000 complaints by tenants about landlords.

It wants to see:

*Fines for rogue landlords raised from £5,000 to £20,000

*A new £10m prosecution fund for local councils to take rogue landlords to court

*Protection for tenants against ‘retaliatory evictions’ whereby tenants are thrown out of their homes if they dare complain

*A national website listing all rogue landlords

*A rogue landlord summit

The Residential Landlords Association joined in the call for local authorities to root out landlords who flout their legal obligations – but said the term ‘rogue’ should not be used. Instead, it said, the word should be ‘criminal’.

In a statement, the RLA said: “The problem is that local authorities have failed to focus on tracking down bad landlords because of seeking to meet central Government targets to license landlords.

“With limited resources, they put their effort into the easy-to-check landlords who are the most visible and compliant and do not concentrate instead on those who deliberately seek to evade inspection. That’s why councils brought only 270 prosecutions of landlords last year.”

And it described Shelter’s five-point plan as ‘an emotional charter of clichés which can spell danger for tenants too’.

Instead, the RLA said it welcomes dialogue to produce solutions but condemned ‘spurious regulation’ that would hurt good landlords but not criminal ones.

It said the idea of a rogue landlord prosecution fund would merely throw money at the problem without producing solutions. It pointed out that the cost of successful cases can be recovered.  

While supporting safeguards for tenants against retaliatory evictions, it said Shelter must not weaken landlords’ rights to evict non-paying or anti-social tenants.