The Government has given councils a further £13.5 million to help them clamp down on rogue landlords who exploit the supported housing system and fail vulnerable residents.
The funding is intended to help local authorities better tackle supported housing providers who profit from benefits claims but do not properly support tenants, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said.
Around £13.5 million was given to 22 councils on Saturday, on top of around £6 million distributed in August to five separate council areas to build on previous pilots, it said.
Currently, rogue landlords can be fined up to £30,000, prosecuted, or given a prohibition order to prevent part of the property from being used for supported housing, the DLUHC said.
The new funding will help councils step up inspections, carry out better scrutiny of housing benefit claims to ensure they are reasonable, and ensure the quality of accommodation and support to residents.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove is “working closely” with Conservative MP Bob Blackman, whose private Supported Housing Bill will have its second reading next week.
This would pass further enforcement measures into law, which could include banning landlords from operating outright, the DLUHC said.
It follows a damning report from the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee last month, which called the exempt housing system a “complete mess” that lets down vulnerable residents and rips off taxpayers.
The report warned that those in need of support are being exploited, while providers make excessive profits by capitalising on loopholes.
Mr Gove said: “Time’s up for rogue landlords who take money from the taxpayer while exploiting vulnerable people.
“We are stepping in to help councils crack down on this appalling activity and I will be working closely with Bob Blackman on his Private Member’s Bill to deliver tough new laws to end this practice once and for all.”
Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive, called profiteering off the backs of vulnerable residents an “absolute blight on our housing system”.
He said: “As part of our Regulate the Rogues campaign we’ve been working closely with Bob Blackman on supporting his timely and much-needed Private Member’s Bill, and we’re delighted to see further commitment from the Government today to support this vital legislation.
“At Crisis, we see first-hand through our services the dangerous and damaging situations people are being left in as a result of the lack of regulation in the exempt accommodation sector.
“Today’s commitment puts us on a firm footing for tackling the scourge of rogue landlords, and will help ensure vital protections are in place for people in vulnerable situations who desperately need a safe home.”