Council promises tough action on rogue landlords as tenants live without smoke detectors

The council says it is prepared to use new powers to deal with irresponsible property owners. Picture courtesy of Wakefield Council report.
The council says it is prepared to use new powers to deal with irresponsible property owners. Picture courtesy of Wakefield Council report.

Wakefield Council has pledged a crackdown on rogue landlords whose tenants are forced to live in poor conditions.

The local authority has recruited extra enforcement officers, who can threaten and bring about prosecution for unco-operative landlords whose homes fail to meet certain standards.

Houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) are a particular concern.

Houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) are a particular concern.

One senior councillor said he was aware of private sector tenants living without working smoke detectors and catches on their windows.

And the council's deputy leader said she met with a group of Castleford residents on Monday whose lives were being "ruined" by what she called "dreadful" living conditions.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Councillor Denise Jeffery said: "Quite honestly, I don't know how anyone can put up with what they're living with.

"This is just one street in my ward, but it's obviously happening all over the district.

The council's deputy leader Denise Jeffery said some residents were living in "dreadful" conditions.

The council's deputy leader Denise Jeffery said some residents were living in "dreadful" conditions.

"It's not just individual rogue landlords. It's organisations who are buying houses, and just putting anybody in them.

"The private rented sector is increasing all the time because people can't afford to buy, and the health and wellbeing of those living in these houses is just absolutely awful.

"I feel very strongly that we need to do something about it."

Although the council has stressed that the vast majority of landlords in the district are responsible and comply with the law, it has promised to use new powers handed down by the government if necessary.

These include being able to fine property owners up to £30,000 and limiting the number of people allowed to live in a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).

There are an estimated 1,500 HMOs across the district, and concerns have been raised all over the UK about cases of tenants being crammed into over-populated homes.

Cabinet member Matthew Morley said: "We need to send a message out to these landlords that they have a duty of care to people living in these houses.

"It's not just a money-making racket. They have a responsibility to people.

"There's people who are living without smoke detectors, they're living without catches on windows - it's horrendous."

A council report said that fire safety shortcomings, electrical problems and dampness were among the most common hazards faced by private tenants.

Since September 2018, housing officers have inspected more than 170 homes across the College Grove area of Wakefield and in Castleford.

As a result of these visits, landlords have been issued with specific instructions for improvements in more than 100 cases.

Some property owners have been brought into the council's Responsible Landlord Scheme, while others have been taken to task over problems faced by residents.

The report said: "(The council) dealt specifically with two landlords who have large portfolios of properties that were a concern to residents and members.

"These landlords were engaged and their portfolios and practices

examined in detail.

"Programmes of work were agreed with both landlords which, despite initial concerns about progress, have now largely been completed."

Local Democracy Reporting Service