The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said it wanted local authorities to take effective and targeted action against criminal landlords, support good landlords and empower tenants to make use of their rights.
It hopes this will be done through encouraging short-term initiatives that stimulate new thinking and further promote innovative approaches in the private rented sector.
Councils will have to apply for funding from the Private Rented Sector Innovation and Enforcement Grant, with the application deadline 1 December.
This is the second year of the fund which last year, according to MHCLG, saw £2m of funding shared among 56 projects reaching 100 councils that were home to more than a million renting households.
This included training hundreds of inspection officers and creating new technologies to reduce the amount of time inspectors were confined to their desks.
MHCLG cited Burnley council, which received more than £60,000 to carry out proactive inspections of rented homes and found and fixed more than 100 hazards across the properties it inspected.
“In some cases the funding helped tenants who were trapped in properties which posed a serious risk to their safety – meaning they could be rehoused in quality accommodation,” MHCLG said.
Proper, multi-year funding needed
However, while the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) welcomed the focus on hitting criminal landlords, it warned the amount simply “is not enough to properly find and root out the crooks”.
RLA policy director David Smith said: “For too long the debate has been driven by ideological calls for more regulation of the sector. What’s needed is better enforcement of the powers already available to root out the minority who bring the sector into disrepute.
“That said, today’s funding is simply not enough to achieve this. Rather than throwing odd bits of cash around the government needs to provide proper, multi-year funding to councils to enable them to plan and prepare clear strategies to find the crooks while supporting good landlords.
“This includes ensuring enough funding is in place to recruit sufficient numbers of well-trained enforcement officers,” he added.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “It’s unacceptable that a small minority of unscrupulous landlords appear to be breaking the law and providing homes that fall short of the standards that tenants rightly expect.
“Everyone deserves to live in a home that is safe and secure, and the funding announced today will help to further strengthen councils’ powers to crack down on criminal landlords and drive up standards in the private rented sector.”