First UK national database of rogue landlords criticised for not being public
The UK’s first national database listing rogue landlords and lettings agents has gone live but has been criticised for not being available to the general public.
It means that councils can access the information showing landlords convicted of a range of housing, immigration and other criminal offences will be on the list such as leasing overcrowded properties, fire and gas safety offences and unlawful eviction.
According to Housing Minister Heather Wheeler the aim is for councils to be able to share information between themselves and keep a closer eye on those with a poor track record.
However, a national landlord organisation has pointed out that it is pointless if it is not accessible to the public. ‘It is disappointing. When this legislation was first announced, we were wildly supportive. Anything which will help eradicate bad letting agents and landlords has our full support,’ said David Cox, chief executive of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
‘The database won’t be public, which means no one will be able to see it and therefore letting agents and landlords who are on the list can continue operating with impunity. This appears to be a pointless exercise. If the list were made public, like the equivalent for estate agents, rogue agents and landlords would leave the market for good,’ he explained.
Wheeler insisted that the list will help make sure that people who are renting are living in safe and good quality properties. ‘That’s why we’re cracking down on the small minority of landlords that are renting out unsafe and substandard accommodation. Landlords should be in no doubt that they must provide decent homes or face the consequences,’ she said.
‘The database will be available to use by councils to crackdown on poor and unfair practice in the private rented sector such as overcrowded, squalid or dangerous accommodation, and to help target their enforcement action,’ she added.
Landlords convicted of offences under the Government’s new law may also be given banning orders preventing them from leasing accommodation for a period of time, ranging from 12 months to life.
Councils must record details of any landlord or property agent who has received a banning order on the database. Landlords that ignore a banning order will face criminal sanctions including up to six months imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Ministry will be able to use the database to publish regular updates on the number of landlords and agents who have been banned, convicted of a banning order offence or received two or more civil penalties, broken down by local authority area.
These measures follow the announcement that councils are also being given tough new powers to tackle the small minority of rogue landlords who rent out overcrowded properties and impose fines of up to £30,000 for those landlords who do not comply.
Overcrowded and poor quality housing can result in excess noise, increased demand on local services such as waste collection and anti-social behaviour generally, which is why the government is determined to crack down on it.