News reports highlighting the plight of tenants trapped in unsuitable or uninhabitable private housing abound. Shelter recently claimed that four in ten privately owned rental homes are unfit for occupation. It will not surprise you to find out, therefore, that the government is looking for ways to clamp down on what it calls ‘rogue landlords.’
Its solution to implement a database of the worst offenders, as set out in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which is due to come into force on October 1.
This blacklist will contain details of all landlords and letting agents who are served a banning order by their local authority and the reason it was issued. It will include those who are convicted of regular offences or aggravated crimes, as well as agents who continue to charge tenants once fees are prohibited.
Bans will be for a minimum of 12 months, although there is no upper limit on the duration and fines will be imposed if the order is breached. During this period, the person or agency concerned will not be able to transfer their properties to associates to deal with, nor will they be allowed to earn income from renting or related activities.
Offences deemed grounds for a banning order include illegally evicting a tenant, renting out an unsafe home, harassment and failure to carry out works required by the local authority.
For the moment, the database will not be available to the public, just local authorities, who will no doubt keep it up to date and use it to monitor the private rental sector. The government hopes this will filter out repeat offenders, but how it works in practise remains to be seen.
Whilst the database is headlining talk of the new Housing and Planning Act, it is worth noting it actually covers eight changes to the laws concerning lettings. The legislation will make tenancy deposit data more widely available to aid enforcement and extend the length of rent repayment orders up to 12 months in cases of disrepair or illegal eviction.
Landlords will be pleased to hear it is also streamlining the abandonment process. If you have an empty property you believe has been vacated, in most cases, you will be able to seek possession without a court order.