Rogue landlords who are renting Sheffield homes which are so dangerous their tenants could die face a legal crackdown.
A total of 668 properties around London Road, Abbeydale Road and Chesterfield Road are in such a bad state, the landlords will now need to buy a licence and go on a register.
Council officers say the violence and aggression they have faced from landlords is so severe, they fear for the safety of tenants who may be too scared to speak out. In a quarter of properties inspected, the tenants appeared to be evicted during or immediately afterwards.
Common problems include:
Dangerous living conditions
Multiple high risk hazards
Inadequate means of escape in event of fire/emergency
Significant and obvious poor conditions
Illegal and dangerous conversions
Basic repairs being ignored
Complex leases so tenants don’t know who to contact for repairs and other problems
Long term neglect and years of under investment
Lack of proper management
Over 70 percent of properties needed action for high risk hazards. In over 60 percent of cases, follow up inspections revealed landlords had failed to improve their properties voluntarily, requiring enforcement action and the threat of legal action
A report to Cabinet next week says: “The unacceptable living conditions are at best a nuisance, are harmful and at worst they are potentially fatal.
“One of the most worrying aspects of our experience with tenants is that many appeared to be afraid to speak to us about their landlords. Some didn’t know who their landlord was or how to contact them.
“They didn’t have legal tenancy agreements or rent receipts. The level of referrals for our officers was relatively high, suggesting that landlords were not adhering to their legal responsibilities in terms of managing tenancies properly, or enabling tenants to live without fear of harassment.
“Supporting evidence for this is the behaviour landlords have shown in public events. Seeing violence and aggression in a public setting like this was shocking. Naturally, it made us wonder how they react to their tenants in the privacy of their property, if they are acting like this in public.
“Added to this is the vulnerability of occupants, whether it is a language or culture barrier, poverty or mental or physical disability. Seeing landlords act in this way made us fearful for the safety of tenants. This situation must not be tolerated and as a council we have a duty of care to protect these people.”
Officers have spent two years trying to persuade these landlords to improve their properties but found there was “great resistance”
The report adds: “During public events we experienced aggressive and potentially violent behaviour from groups of landlords.
“They demonstrated through their behaviour that they did not understand the legal responsibilities associated with being a landlord - and that their management and maintenance of properties is likely to be lower than the legal requirements.
“Their behaviour also suggested there may be underlying issues with their properties or business activities that would come to light with such an intense programme of inspection.
“It was difficult or impossible to gain access to some properties where officers had strong suspicions that hazards existed.
“In public meetings landlords exclaimed that their properties were good and that we should go and look at them. Yet when we asked for contact details to follow them up, most either refused or gave us false information.”
Landlords in these areas will be checked to see if they are “fit and proper” and those with criminal convictions or a history could fail this test and be prevented from managing in the area. The Government has now introduced Banning Orders which means those landlords could ultimately be banned from operating anywhere in the country.