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14.12.15

Councils want national database to tackle ‘rogue’ landlords

Local council leaders have called for a national database covering all housing-related convictions to crack down on “postcode” landlords switching from one area to another to avoid being licensed. 

The Local Government Association (LGA) claims that serial criminal landlords who have already been blocked from operating by some boroughs running licensing schemes may be moving to other postcodes and trying to set up businesses. 

The LGA says there needs to be a comprehensive database, backed by the government, which all councils can access, to identify and effectively target the serial rogue operators. 

As part of the Housing and Planning bill, which is going through Parliament, the government is introducing a database listing landlords who are subject to banning orders. But local authorities would like this to be expanded, to include private landlords who have other housing-related convictions. 

Cllr Peter Box, the LGA’s environment spokesman, said: “Thousands of tenants face a bleak Christmas in sub-standard homes. This is because the current system for prosecuting rogue landlords is unfit for the 21st century. Rogue landlords are exploiting this and endangering tenants' lives. 

“A national information pool of rogue landlords is urgently needed so councils can identify the serial rogue operators and target them more effectively. We are calling for a system which protects the good landlords, whose reputation is being dragged down by the bad ones.”

Let down by current system 

He added that local authorities are being “let down” by the current system, and many councils have found homes with fire escape doors opening out onto three-storey drops and without proper front doors, so tenants have discovered strangers sleeping on their sofas. 

LGA research suggests that the process of prosecuting criminal landlords can take up to 16 months, and in almost 75% of cases the average fine was £5,000 or less. 

“Fines must match the offence and the impact on tenants, not just the landlords' ability to pay,” said Cllr Box. 

Simon Gordon, a policy adviser to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), writing for Conservative Home, said the RLA is supporting the Private Members Bill proposed by Dame Angela Watkinson MP which would compel local authorities to ask, as part of council tax registration, for a property’s tenure and, where rented, details of the landlord. 

“Where a tenant is unable to identify their landlord this would immediately set alarm bells ringing and indicate to local authorities that there may be a problem and that action should be taken,” he said. 

“Secondly, local enforcement teams need the resources to do their job.  That means adopting the polluter pays principle. Local authorities should be able to keep all the fines from successful prosecution of those who breach their legal obligations and these funds should be re-invested in enforcement.”

Comments

John   19/12/2015 at 10:31

Local authority leaders should perhaps put their own houses in order first ! As a letting agent I am asked advice by council tenants about the condition and disrepair of their flats. If these flats were owned by a private landlord then that landlord would be classified as "rogue".

Ian T Price   19/12/2015 at 12:21

At last! A sensible suggestion for targeting the minority of CRIMINAL landlords rather than burdening the law abiding majority of landlords. The past suggestion of a national database of ALL landlords will only result in the law-abiding ones being registered and cause the same landlords to pass on the extra costs in the form of rent rises. Congratulations to the bright spark who both listened and came up with a practical solution.

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