Leeds council pledges new crackdown on rogue private landlords as sector booms - and so do the problems

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Leeds City Council is stepping up its efforts to crack down on rogue private landlords - but says better resources are needed to help tackle the growing issue.

More than one in every five homes in the city is now privately rented, almost double the amounts of 20 years ago.

But the cash-strapped local authority admits it “has not been able to keep up with the pace of change”, even though there is help it can offer to private tenants.

The council’s director of environment and housing, Neil Evans, told a cross-party scrutiny panel: “It’s fair to say our resources don’t match the scale of the issue.

“The sector has increased.

“If we look back 20 years, about 13 per cent of the city was living in private [rental].

“By the 2011 census it was 18 per cent. We believe now it’s up to about 21 per cent. So it’s a very big sector. And while a lot of it is fine, [there are some] big problems.

“We have not been able to keep up with the pace of change.”

Councils have limited regulatory powers when dealing with private landlords, but they can help in ensuring basic standards are maintained. This includes issues with cold, fire safety and offering advice on eviction issues and non return of bonds.

Yesterday’s meeting was told that Leeds City Council has already set up a new “rogue landlord” unit to concentrate its work.

Councillor Debra Coupar, the council’s executive member for citizens and communities, said the “one good thing” about the Government’s new Housing and Planning Act was that it had given councils powers to deal better with rogue private landlords.

But she added: “We just need the resources to do it now. We have to get the worst first. It’s absolutely a priority for the council.”

Councillor Jonathan Bentley, a Lib Dem councillor who sits on the Housing and Environment scrutiny panel, said: “It’s important that tenants know their rights, but it’s also important that landlords know their responsibilities.”