The Mayor of London is to fund a new qualification and training for local authority housing enforcement officers.
These officers will “clamp down on rogue landlords and agents, support vulnerable tenants and ensure rental properties are in decent condition and meet safety standards.”
The Mayor is also asking Ministers to do more – he wants the amount that tenants can claim back if their home isn’t up to scratch doubled, to two years’ worth of rent, for the worst properties which pose a risk of death or serious injury.
For London tenants paying the average rent of £1,425 a month this could mean a pay-out of up to £34,000 for the worst slum landlords.
The Mayor has also repeated his call to be given the power to introduce rent controls in London.
Nearly a fifth of privately rented homes (18%) fail the Government’s Decent Homes standard and private renters in London are disproportionately likely to be defined as ‘vulnerable’.
The new course, Private Sector Housing Interventions, aims to train those with little or no experience in environmental health or private rental housing up to the standard needed to carry out the duties of a private rented sector enforcement officer to tackle rogue landlords.
To date, 265 officers have been trained in courses commissioned by the GLA including tenancy sustainment, supporting tenants in domestic abuse cases, and gathering evidence for prosecutions.
Learners studying the qualification spend time both in the classroom and working in borough enforcement teams as environmental enforcement officers.
They also develop tenancy sustainment skills to allow them to mediate and resolve issues between landlords and tenants and better support tenants facing evictions and potential homelessness.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Every single Londoner deserves a secure, safe and comfortable home. Nearly a fifth of London’s private rented accommodation doesn’t meet basic standards and it is clear that more needs to be done to support tenants.
“I want to see tougher penalties for rogue operators and this action can only come from the Government. Poor housing conditions and exploitative rents have an awful impact on both the physical and mental health of tenants and these actions need to have consequences.
“With the cost-of-living spiralling, Londoners also need the government to give us the power to bring in rent controls which may’s election gave us a clear mandate for.
“I also want to see boroughs empowered to stand up for tenants.
“This new qualification will give councils across London the workforce and expertise to mediate disputes, enforce standards and crack down on the rogues who give the many honest operators in the sector a bad name.”
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Chief Executive, Dr Phil James said: “We are delighted to work together with the Mayor of London to develop this important qualification.
“It should give London councils the route to train up members of their teams with the skills needed in order to support tenants, do more inspections of rented properties and to take more enforcement actions against unscrupulous landlords, who rent out dangerous and unhealthy homes in the city.
“Unfortunately, there are currently not enough qualified Environmental Health Practitioners for local authorities to recruit.
“We have been working hard to change this, both through our public facing campaigns like #ChooseEnvironmentalHealth, where we have been generating new interest in the profession, and our call to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to create a national apprenticeships fund for local authorities, to help local areas fund the cost of training up more environmental health practitioners.”
Dr Alan Page, Associate Professor of Environmental and Public Health at Middlesex University, said: “This programme is a substantial addition in support of private sector housing regulation and in the Mayor’s aspiration to improve the quality of the housing within the sector.
“Middlesex University has a long history in training environmental health practitioners (EHPs) and this programme mirrors the specialist training that EHPs receive.
“These students will add really able practitioners to London enforcement teams and thereby increase capacity to improve the sector and the life circumstances of tenants.
“The students on the programme are incredibly enthusiastic and having them learning together is enabling them to recognise best practices operated across London.”
Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Reduction at Waltham Forest Council, said: “Every private rental tenant in London deserves to enjoy living in peace, comfort, and security.
“We work hard to take action against the minority of landlords who do not take their responsibilities to their tenants seriously, and we welcome the new support from the Mayor to train more staff to help us clamp down on rogue landlords and agents.
“Extra qualified housing enforcement officers alongside tougher financial penalties will send a clear message to lazy or exploitative landlords: you are on our radar, we will take action to keep your tenants safe, and we will press for you to receive the maximum penalty for your negligence.”