New team to tackle rogue Northampton landlords as one raid discovers squalid living conditions and cannabis factory
Northampton landlords who profit from criminality and leave tenants living in squalor are being targeted by a new council team for the next three months.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has given Northampton Borough Council £196,000 to set up the 'special operations unit' until the end of March.
A raid on one property portfolio in November found more than 100 offences under the Housing Act 2004, including a cannabis factory, substandard and unsafe conditions and operating houses in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence.
Cabinet member for housing and wellbeing Stephen Hibbert said: “The council is committed to raising standards in the private rented sector and targeting the property portfolios and assets of Northampton’s most harmful landlords.
“Although Northampton has a lot of very good landlords and managing agents who provide their tenants with excellent, well managed housing, it also has a significant number of law-breaking landlords who knowingly rent out accommodation that is unlicensed, substandard or unsafe.
“We are delighted to receive this government funding because it will enable us to target more rogue landlords. This is what good landlords want and local residents deserve.”
The 'special operations unit' will work closely with the emergency services, Trading Standards, the Home Office immigration teams and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to tackle rogue landlords.
At present, there are more people living in Northampton’s private rented sector than in social housing and, in common with many other parts of the country, the sector is being used to support serious organised crime, according to the council.
There are currently 846 licensed HMOs in the borough but, with the introduction of an additional HMO licensing scheme in February 2020, this figure is expected to increase to more than 1,300 in 2020/21.
The council has identified 512 mandatory HMOs that may be operating without a licence and are investigating another 221 suspected HMOs.
In Northampton, the private rented sector has doubled in size during the past 10 years and amounts to around 18 per cent of the homes in the borough.
At the end of the 'special operations unit' initiative, the council will host a seminar for other local authorities who want to learn more about the unit and what it has achieved.