William Eichler 22 January 2019

Whitehall must stop ‘rogue landlords’ receiving public money, council says

Brent Council has urged the Government to stop rogue landlords who fail ‘fit and proper’ tests from receiving housing benefit.

The London council’s call comes after a Guardian and ITV News investigation in October revealed that banned landlords were continuing to rent out properties.

Bernard McGowan, a Brent landlord who owns £30m worth of property, was convicted six times under the Housing Act between 2014 and 2017, and failed the council’s ‘fit and proper’ test in 2015.

McGowan was barred from directly renting out houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) or any home in eight of the borough’s wards where landlords specifically require a licence.

Despite this ban, McGowan continued to receive public money. Since the start of 2015, he was paid nearly £1m in housing benefit from Brent.

Brent council yesterday called on the secretary of state for housing James Brokenshire to change the law to prevent rogue landlords from being paid housing benefit if they don't meet licensing criteria.

‘It's completely unacceptable that landlords who flout the rules and cause misery for thousands of tenants across the country receive housing benefit. Today, I have written to the minister urging him to act on this issue,’ said Cllr Eleanor Southwood, cabinet member for housing and welfare reform.

‘We need the law on our side to help us protect tenants' rights and drive up standards in the private rented sector.

‘Last week, Brent received a grant of over £100,000, which we'll be using to provide further support for private tenants in the battle against rogue landlords. But we need Government to make legislative change so that we have all the tools we need.’

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