Calls for tougher action against rogue landlords after more than 1,000 complaints
Housing chiefs in South Tyneside have come under fire for failing to take any rogue landlords to court over a three year period.
A Freedom of Information Act inquiry found South Tyneside Council did not take court action against private landlords or agents for leaving tenants living in dangerous or unsanitary conditions between 2014 and end of 2016.
The authority says it prefers to work with landlords to resolve issues and has recently taken court action against one problem property owner.
The research into prosecutions was part of a campaign for higher standards in the private rental - headed by KIS letting agency boss Ajay Jagota, who wants the Government to abolish tenancy deposits.
He says the current rules coststhe average private renter in South Tyneside £1,473 to move into a new home and wants to see the deposit replaced with an insurance scheme.
The campaign says some £10million is being held in tenancy deposits in South Tyneside, which has more than 13,000 private renters.
Mr Jagota said: “I’d like to believe the lack of convictions for rougue landlords means that the only rented homes in South Tyneside are good homes and the only landlords are good landlords. Sadly this is extraordinarily unlikely
“We all know what tremendously difficult financial position local authorities are in. South Tyneside alonehas to cut £119million from its budget. It appears that local authorities may not have the resources to adequately tackle poor quality privately rented housing.”
Figures released by the council show that in 2014, it dealt with 286 complaints, followed by 408 the next year and 423 last year.
It says in 2016, it prosecuted a number of landlords under a series of acts and also advised tenants who taken their own legal action.
A spokesman said: “When we receive a complaint about a private rented property being in a state of disrepair we carry out an inspection.
“Where the problem identified is the responsibility of the landlord, we contact the landlord and work with him and the tenant to ensure the property is brought back into a state of good repair.
“In nearly all cases, landlords cooperate as they are aware that the council has a number of enforcement powers including prosecution if they fail to comply with a Statutory Notice and being liable for costs if the council has step in and undertake remedial work.”
This month, South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court found Brian Bennett, of Bamburgh Grove, Jarrow, guilty of failing to comply with a statutory notice issued by the council’s Environmental Health Service.
Although Bennett had carried out work to the bathroom floor, water continued to seep through to the property below.
Magistrates said he failed to meet the requirements of the notice and, in addition to a £3,000 fine, ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £300 and £600 costs.