Rogue landlords operating in the “wild west” of supported housing have been warned by a group of London politicians that their time is up.
Bob Blackman, the Tory MP for Harrow East, told an event in Parliament on Monday that work was under way to hold exploitative landlords to account.
Mr Blackman was speaking at the launch of a new report from the London Assembly, which looks at how rogue housing providers are disregarding their safeguarding responsibilities and in some cases targeting vulnerable Londoners and placing them in unsuitable, dangerous homes.
The report focuses specifically on exempt accommodation - homes in which the usual caps of housing benefit, such as the benefit cap and the Local Housing Allowance cap, do not apply.
Exempt accommodation is generally used to house vulnerable tenants, such as young people with support needs, people leaving hospital, and disabled people - with landlords supposed to provide their tenants with the additional day-to-day help they will need.
But the new report, produced by the Assembly’s housing committee and titled ‘Unsafe and unregulated: London’s rogue supported housing providers’, shows how large numbers of tenants in the sector are being severely neglected by their landlords - who can charge exorbitant rents and know that those rents will be covered by the uncapped housing benefit.
The report reveals a particularly shocking case in Havering, said committee chair Sem Moema.
“There were two homicides that took place in a very inappropriately mixed accommodation unit [there], and part of that [problem] is because boroughs just don’t know people are there, until the police show up,” said Ms Moema.
Mr Blackman has put forward a Private Member’s Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords, which seeks to better regulate the sector.
Mr Blackman said his bill would “tame” the “wild west” of exempt accommodation, adding: “Our aim is very simple. We’re going after the rogue landlords. We want to minimise the impact on the good landlords who do a good job…
“[But] if you’re a rogue landlord, your time is coming to an end, simple as that.”
Jasmine Basran, head of policy and campaigns at the charity Crisis, said: “What we’re really concerned about is we’ve seen a really astronomical growth of landlords who are saying they will support people into safe homes with the additional help they might need, because they might have fled domestic abuse, or left prison, or have mental health support needs.
“Instead of doing that, these landlords are taking the additional money, when they’re meant to support people, and spending it for themselves.
“People are living in really appalling accommodation. We’ve seen people living with mould, in dirty accommodation, but the worst is that they’re also experiencing intimidation and abuse and harassment.
“So these are people who are already vulnerable and then they’re being effectively bullied by their landlords. They’re being exploited. We cannot let this continue.”
A spokeswoman for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor has long called for more investment [from the Government] in the specialist and supported housing sector and he is grateful that the Assembly's report shines a light on poor quality accommodation….
“City Hall officers are looking at these recommendations in detail and the Mayor will be writing to [the] Government urging them for more investment and support.”
A spokesman at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities responded: “It is unacceptable that unscrupulous landlords are trying to profit at the expense of vulnerable people and exploiting the housing benefit system...
“We are backing legislation that will give councils more powers to enforce higher standards and, where needed, ban poorly performing landlords. This is alongside £20 million investment to drive up quality in the supported housing sector and protect the most vulnerable in society.”