New figures suggest that English councils have cut the amount they are spending on tackling rogue landlords by a quarter compared with a decade ago.

Local authorities' spending on ‘housing standards activities’ was £44.5m in 2009/10, by 2017/18 this had fallen to £33.5m, a drop of £11m, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) claims.

With over 150 Acts of Parliament containing more than 400 regulations affecting the private rented sector, the RLA argues that better enforcement of these laws - backed up by greater funding - is key to driving out rogue operators who can make life a misery for tenants and bring the sector into disrepute.

The government recently made £2m available for councils to tackle problem landlords, but the RLA does not believe that one-off pots of money provides the certainty for councils to be able to plan long-term for enforcement action.

New civil penalty powers enable councils to keep the proceeds of fines levied on landlords who are breaking the law and use this money for further enforcement.

The problem, the association says, is that councils don’t have the resources to kick-start the process by taking the action against criminal landlords that then leads to fines generating funding for further action.

The RLA is calling on the Government to provide in its forthcoming spending review a multi-year funding package to support initial enforcement action.

RLA policy manager John Stewart said: “Criminal landlords undermine the reputation of the decent majority, cause tenants to suffer and have no place in the sector.

“Local authorities must have the funds they need to properly enforce the wide range of powers they already have to tackle sub-standard housing and criminal behaviour.

"Our analysis shows that for all the warm words, councils are in desperate need of new funding to ensure this happens.

“The government should use the spending review to address this as a matter of urgency.”

A few months ago, Simple Landlords Insurance also looked at the ability of councils to enforce new Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing rules – and found them swamped, with two-thirds unsure how many HMOs actually operated in their area.