More than half of local authorities in England have not issued civil penalties against rogue or criminal landlords in the past three years, according to a membership body.
Since April 2017, councils across England have been able to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 for a range of housing offences.
Income received can be reinvested by local authorities to help finance further enforcement against criminal operators who cause harm to tenants and give private renting a bad name, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said.
The NRLA submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request to local authorities in England.
It found that between 2018/19 and 2020/21, 130 local authorities in England out of 275 replying to the survey (47%) had issued civil penalties.
It said most had used only a handful, with 71% of all civil penalties issued by just 7% of the local authorities.
In total, fewer than 3,200 civil penalties had been issued over the past three years by the local authorities responding to the survey, despite suggestions during the passage of the legislation to introduce them that there may be 10,500 rogue landlords in operation, the NRLA said.
Chris Norris, director of policy and campaigns at the NRLA, said: “We are calling on all councils to ensure they are making full and proper use of the powers they have to tackle those landlords who cause misery to tenants and bring the sector into disrepute.
“The Government’s plans to reform the private rented sector due later this year will mean nothing if changes are not properly enforced.”
A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Councils take tenants’ complaints seriously and are doing everything they can to address any issues and work with the private rented sector to raise standards.
“However, some may be resolved without the need for inspection and enforcement is a last resort when all other options fail.
“The private rented sector is growing which is why it is important councils have the right funding so they can take action where necessary.”