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Rogue landlords: Call for tougher measures

Continuing to work with landlords to improve housing conditions in Boston is the best way forward, a meeting of Boston Borough Council's Cabinet heard.

Cllr Ben Evans, portfolio holder for housing, property and community, responded as members discussed how difficult it was to recover the costs of taking landlords to court.

The debate follows a recent campaign by the Local Government Association which has asked for tough new measures - including jail sentences -to tackle rogue landlords when all else has failed.

LGA research found it can take up to 16 months to prosecute a rogue operator.

LGA Environment spokesman Cllr Peter Box, said: "The current system for prosecuting rogue landlords is not fit for the 21st century. Rogue landlords are exploiting this and endangering tenants' lives. The system allows landlords to treat fines as 'operating costs' and they can offset these against the profits they are raking in. We need a system which protects the good landlords, whose reputation is being dragged down by the bad ones.

"Councils are doing everything they can to tackle bad practice by rogue landlords. However, they are being hamstrung by a system wracked by delays, bureaucracy and feeble fines.

"Magistrates should be able to take the seriousness of the offence into consideration and jail rogue landlords who put lives at risk. Fines must match the offence and the impact on tenants, not just the landlords' ability to pay - which is an open invitation for exploitation. We are also urging the Government to establish a national database of rogue landlords, which councils can access."

Between April, 2014, and March, 2015, Boston Borough Council, under its Rogue Landlords project,  formally inspected 188 properties - many more were visited but excluded for formal inspection.

It issued 249 notices, prohibited five properties from being used, removed three sheds which were being lived in, visited 43 properties with the police and 30 landlords were subject to formal enforcement action.

Many properties were improved but some landlords were prosecuted.

In the most recent case Daniel Barry Matson pleaded guilty by letter, having failed to appear before magistrates on two previous occasions, to offences connected with the property at 3 South Terrace, Boston.

Boston Magistrates on Monday, October 19, fined him £2,500, ordered him to pay £1,765.75 costs and a £120 victim surcharge - a total of £4385.75 - for failure to comply with a full improvement notice .

The court was shown photographs illustrating human waste coming up into bath from defective toilet and macerator, an occupant using a gas stove on a timber floor to cook food, water penetration through a ground floor ceiling, a taped-up double electric socket at low level in the front ground floor bedroom, used by a family of three including an infant, and a steep unguarded staircase leading off a first-floor landing up into an attic room.