More than £1.7 million of penalty notices were served to rogue landlords and letting agents by Waltham Forest District Council and Redbridge Council for violating housing needs of tenants, a new investigation has found.

But with just 4.7 per cent of 10,065 complaints leading to civil penalties and 0.53 per cent of these to prosecutions, the figures could be an indicator of local authorities’ failure to hold rogue landlords to account.

The data forms part of a wider investigation by Open Democracy for its report, which made Freedom of Information requests to councils across England and Wales about the number of tenant complaints received about rogue landlords and letting agents and the number of prosecutions and penalties between 2018/19 and 2020/21.

The dataset revealed authorities received 314,000 complaints in this period, but half of councils had not prosecuted a single landlord.

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Redbridge received 7,333 complaints and served 45 prosecutions and 361 civil penalties valued at £763,971: a conversion of 0.61 per cent for prosecutions and 4.9 percent for civil penalties.

Meanwhile Waltham Forest Council received 2,732 complaints, serving nine prosecutions and 121 civil penalties against both landlords and letting agents to the value of £1,014,496; a conversion of 0.32 per cent for the former, and 4.42 per cent for the latter.

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director for campaign group Generation Rent, said: “When your home is making you unwell, the council should be there to help and prosecute or fine your landlord if they fail to take action to fix things.

“Unfortunately councils often use informal enforcement action leaving tenants unprotected and letting criminal landlords off the hook.” He said a national landlord register would make it easier for councils to take action but they also need more funding to allow them to do this.

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Cllr Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing and homelessness reduction at Waltham Forest Council, said the authority has improved conditions in over 5,500 properties since launching its Property Licensing scheme in 2015.

She added: “The most recent figures show Waltham Forest has issued the second-highest number of notices to rogue landlords and is also in the top 30 for prosecutions. We are leading the way not just in London but across the whole UK in protecting the rights and safety of private rental tenants.”

Redbridge Council was contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.