Government plans have been published to open up a database to prospective tenants of potential rogue landlords in their area. Access the register of the worst landlords which is currently only available to local authorities.
With over 11 million renters of private property in England within 4.5 million households, the database could potentially be beneficial and offer greater protection for tenants nationwide. The percentage of private renters has almost doubled since 2002, from 10% to 19%.
The government is not just looking at extending access to the database but is also seeking views on whether to add more offences and infractions to the entries.
Homeless charity, Shelter, has described it as ‘far and away the most important thing the government can do’ to help tenants. The reforms put forward for consultation include the proposal to put an end to no-fault evictions in another huge step forward in safeguarding against homelessness.
Last year, an investigation was launched by the Guardian newspaper and ITV News after it was found that the database was being kept secret from the public. This led to a U-turn by the former prime minister, Theresa May who announced it was time for it to be revealed. Under the proposals, tenant will be able to look up their landlord and/or letting agent online by entering their name on the database. This could also mean that blacklisted landlords with sex and drugs offences might be revealed as well.
So far, very few of the estimated 10,500 rogue landlords operating across England have been entered on to the database since it went live in April 2018. A freedom of information request in 2019 revealed that just four landlords had been entered on to the database, by three separate councils. However, the government has said that it expects to see at least 600 of the worst culprits once the prosecutions have gone through the legal system, possibly from the new year. As it stands at the moment, the database will only include landlords with two or more Civil Penalties carried out within a 12 month period.
Some of the offences that can get a rogue landlord on the database are:
- violence to secure entry to property;
- gas safety offences;
- landlords and agents not complying with ‘right to rent’, for instance either authorising a person who does not have the right to rent to occupy a property under a residential tenancy agreement;
- offence of harassment and/or stalking;
- destroying or damaging the tenants personal property;
- failing to comply with fire safety duties;
- failing to comply with a legal improvement notice enforced by the law.
There are many more offences besides (all listed on the gov.uk website) and the government has proposed more stipulations to be added if the public sharing of the database goes through parliament.
It would seem that landlords should be in no doubt that they must provide decent accommodation for their tenants or face the consequences with a possible ‘name and shame’ added to the database for all to see.
This begs the question: Why isn’t there also a bad tenants’ register so landlords do not take on tenants with unreasonable behaviour histories?