Figures given in a parliamentary answer reveal that during the 18 months to the end of September 2018, only three rent repayment orders across England were issued by local councils.
The Residential Landlords Association says that, since April 2017, councils have been able to reclaim the cost of up to 12 months’ worth of rent from private landlords for offences in instances where rent was paid through benefits.
Offences include the licensing of rented property, failure by a landlord to comply with an improvement notice served on them, seeking to evict tenants illegally, and the engagement of harassing behaviour.
Councils are able to fine private landlords in breach of these conditions up to £30,000.
Data collected by the RLA found that from 2017 to 2018, 89 per cent of local authorities did not fine any private landlords, and 50 per cent reported they did not have a policy in place to fine those breaching the conditions.
Residential Landlords Association policy director David Smith comments: “Councils are failing tenants and good landlords.
“For all the talk about them needing new powers, the reality is that many are not properly using the wide range of powers they already have to drive out criminal landlords.
“Laws without proper enforcement mean nothing. It is time for councils to start acting against the crooks.”