Rogue landlords are back in the news this month, as the law fails to prevent convicted landlords from taking advantage of vulnerable tenants.
Evidence shows that landlords in England and Wales, who have been convicted of housing offences, have continued to collect rents – and the wording of the law makes the practice legal.
The Guardian newspaper has said that, although compelled by law to do so, local authorities have failed to add any rogue landlords to the central government database in six months, from its launch in April until October 2018. Even if the database did contain any details, the government has said it is not ‘in the public interest’ to disclose the information, other than to local and central government.
In contrast, the Mayor of London’s separate rogue landlord database does allow the public to access details for a year after the date of conviction. The tool’s use in London was described as ‘priceless’ by property technology company, GetRentr.
Only banning order offences since 6th April 2018 are required to be entered on the database. Before the database’s launch, the government had estimated that over 600 of the worst offending landlords would be entered onto the database – of an estimated 10,500 in England.
Even though previously named, shamed and banned (sometimes on more than one occasion) – rogue landlords described variously as ‘not fit and proper’ and ‘despicable’ are renting out property in ‘totally unacceptable conditions’, ‘failing to deal with damp and mould’ and even renting a ‘shabbily converted bedsit’ that was tantamount to a ‘shed in the back garden’.
Current legislation allows a landlord to continue legally renting out property, either by managing their property through a third party, or by operating in a different local authority to that from which he has been banned.
The database was introduced to allow local authorities to collaborate when licencing landlords, a system introduced with the Housing Act 2004 which was aimed at protecting tenants from rogue landlords.
There is currently no minimum standard for properties let out to tenants. A survey by the University of York found that around 250,000 families in England had been failed where they were bringing up children in unsuitable property, and the authors called for a system akin to a ‘property MOT’.
Local authorities have the tools to enforce the law and protect tenants through banning orders, fines and the new database – they just aren’t using them.
Openly flaunting the rules in order to continue operating doesn’t mean that rogue landlord’s don’t have a conscience, though. One of the offenders approached for comment by the Guardian hid in a toilet for 30 minutes to avoid speaking to journalists before summoning a taxi to collect him.