Reading Borough Council has signed up to a major national campaign aimed at stamping out rogue landlords.
The council said it was supporting the campaign by the charity Shelter in a bid to drive up standards in rented housing.
In signing up to the initiative, the council has highlighted action it already takes in a number of key areas to clamp down on rogue landlords.. And, in a message to Shelter, the council gives evidence of its commitment, shown by the two landlords it prosecuted last year and the four it has taken to court so far this year.
In January a landlord was fined more than £2,000 for a string of offences under HMO legislation. Following a complaint from one of the tenants the council visited and found the house in a poor state of repair and a garden full of fly tipped rubbish. And in a separate case, a landlord, who faced 20 charges in court including damaged electric socket, smoke detector and cooker, was fined £665. He was unable to pay and one day's imprisonment in default of the fine was imposed. And in another case the council took a lettings agent to court in July for 17 offences of failing to manage the property including fire safety measures, overcrowding and failure to comply with HMO licence. This resulted in a large fine of £20,000.
As part of the campaign, Shelter asks signatories to take action in the following areas:
" Enforce laws that already exist to stamp out rogue landlords Reading works closely with landlords and tenants to continually improve standards. It enforces the law to make sure tenants' health, safety and welfare are protected and it targets landlords who don't comply. The council is currently gathering evidence to see what more it can do to further improve standards.
" Proactively inspect properties to make sure they are appropriate homes for tenants. Reading does this in a number of ways. The Deposit Guarantee Scheme helps tenants into homes inspected by officers. It carries out private sector stock condition surveys and carries out Mandatory HMO Licensing inspections. The council also encourages councillors and residents to report problem properties. It provides a reactive service to help residents living in substandard conditions and works with partners like the University of Reading to make sure tenants know what the acceptable standards are.
" Introduce landlord accreditation scheme. Reading was one of the pioneers of Landlord Accreditation Schemes and has had its own scheme for ten years. It is a partner with the National Landlords Association to provide an accreditation recognised more widely. It also supports good landlords by offering free or discounted training
" Publicise their tough stance on rogue landlords in the local press. The local media have covered a number of stories along with articles in national trade press.
Rachel Eden, Reading's Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Housing, said: 'I am very pleased to say we have signed up to this important campaign initiated by Shelter and I'd encourage other authorities to do the same. Tackling rogue landlords is something that both I personally and the council's administration believe to be very important and the increasing demand for housing in Reading will mean this is something we have to keep on top of.
'The council intends to continue pioneering the actions it already takes to carry on driving up standards for tenants. However, it must be said, continuing cuts in Government funding do mean that the ability of the council to do this within resources available is an ongoing challenge,' she added.
Roger Harding, head of policy, research and public affairs at Shelter, said: 'We are pleased to hear that Reading Borough Council are committing to firm action against rogue landlords operating in their area. Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact rogue landlords have on people's lives and we've been campaigning to urge government and councils to crack down on the small but highly dangerous minority of landlords who make people's lives a misery.
'We urge other councils to follow Reading's lead in confronting rogue landlords and do everything in their power to crack down on the worst offenders in their area,' he added.