SIR: It is not surprising that in the current conditions with serious problems pre-dating the Covid pandemic that there have been two significant actions related to Winchester rogue landlords.

In May the landlord of a Stanmore house who converted a three bedroomed house to seven bedrooms without planning permission was ordered on appeal to reinstate the house to its original configuration by the planning inspector. WCC obtained an enforcement notice which was upheld.

This was followed by another Stanmore landlord ordered to repay rent to students of nearly £30,000 for not having an HMO licence.

This situation is not unfamiliar. The failure to act by WCC as the local authority is pitiful. Enforcement and the policing of HMOs has become almost a joke that has allowed rogue landlords to flourish without proper monitoring and regulation. WCC has only four staff engaged in HMO work, two full time and two part time, a reduction from six when two were not replaced. Its HMO staff are responsible for both monitoring and planning issues. Both the previous Tory administration and the Lib Dems have ignored the scale of rule and law breaking in this sector. There are numerous examples of similar cases but WCC has not bothered to increase its enforcement to normal staffing levels or raise perpetual issues requiring enforcement action.

Consequently, these two cases are the tip of the iceberg. In the UK, privately renting tenants are currently paying over £10bn to landlords in sub-standard properties. Privately-rented households have increased by over 1m in the past 10 years. Landlords do not require planning permission to create an HMO. It is not a criminal offence not to apply for an HMO licence.

There is clearly significant exploitation by landlords of students, the very low paid on zero hours and others. This is compounded by lack of interest from the previous and current administration.

Peter Rees

Member Winchester Constituency Labour Party,

Monarch Way,