Landlords whose properties are overcrowded, at risk of fire or are being used for criminal activity, could be given fines or face prosecution under a new crackdown across Worcestershire.

The Government has awarded £291,000 to local authorities across Worcestershire to support a county-wide crackdown on rogue landlords, working with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Fire and Rescue Service and Worcester City Council.

The investment, from the Controlling Migration Fund, will be used to identify flats and other housing where tenants are living in poor or dangerous conditions.  Action will be taken to force landlords to make improvements and to reduce any knock-on effects on local communities.

Councillor Chris Rogers, Cabinet Member for Housing, Health and Well-being at Wyre Forest District Council, said: “Private rented properties are an important part of the housing mix in Worcestershire – people living in them have a right to expect their home to be safe and of a decent standard.”

“This funding will allow action to be taken against rogue landlords who provide sub-standard, poor – and, in some cases, dangerous – accommodation. It will also give us a deeper understanding of the impact poor housing can have on tenants.”

The crackdown will focus on finding unlicensed private rented accommodation where tenants’ lives are being put at risk through poor safety standards and overcrowding. Officers will also be on the lookout for signs of criminal activity or where there are concerns over the personal safety of tenants – for example, prostitution or sexual exploitation of children.

The project will also focus on the impact their poor housing can have on local communities, in terms of noise, sanitation issues, greater fire risk, benefit fraud and anti-social behaviour such as street drinking.

This follows a recent Fire Service pilot scheme in Worcestershire, when 234 residential flats above business premises were visited. 157 of them were given fire safety checks, which led to the issuing of 51 official notices ordering that safety improvements be made.

Two private sector enforcement officers will be employed as part of the campaign, working to track down and inspect rented accommodation, identify who the landlords are and check that conditions are up to legally required standards.

Where problems are discovered, the officers will be able to issue fines or notices ordering landlords to improve their properties. In some cases, rogue landlords could face prosecution.

A communities engagement worker will also support any migrants in sub-standard properties and the communities they are living in, aiming to building better relations between them.