Housing reform- tackling the “rogue landlord”

Introduction

This article explores the recent legislative changes that came into play in April 2018. From 6th April 2018, parts of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 ”The Act” commence introducing banning orders and a database of rogue landlords and property agents in England. This article focuses on those two main areas of change. In the midst of a housing crises demand for housing is growing. There is a distinct lack of availability of social sector housing and, therefore, more people are turning to private landlords. Whilst the majority of landlord’s comply with their obligations, a minority are “rogue landlords”. They knowingly flout their legal obligations by providing substandard accommodation. More disturbing is that it is those who are most vulnerable within society who find themselves living in substandard conditions. It is hoped that the recent changes will tackle poor and unfair practice in the private rented sector.

Banning Order

Under The Act local authorities are provided with new powers to seek banning orders. These banning orders work in synch with the “rogue landlord database” discussed below.

Section 16 allows local housing authorities to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for banning orders of at least 12 months against a residential landlord or property agent who has been convicted of a “banning offence”. There is in place a draft schedule consisting a lengthy list of banning order offences. These range from the unlawful eviction and harassment of the occupier to gas safety breaches.

Under s14 a banning order prevents a person from: letting housing in England and/or engaging in letting agency work and property management work. Furthermore, a banned person will not be permitted to hold a licence for a house in multiple occupation. Breaching an order can have serious consequences, which are set out in section 21. A breach of a banning order is punishable by imprisonment or a fine of up to £30,000.

Database

Another measure introduced by The Act is the rogue landlord database. This allows local housing authorities in England to keep track of rogue landlords and property agents. Under section 29 of The Act, local housing authorities must make an entry on the database for a person or organisation that has received a banning order. Under section 30, the local housing authority may make an entry on the database in respect of a person if that person has been convicted of a banning order offence at a time when the person was a residential landlord or a property agent. There are however criteria that a local authority must look at before making their decision. Amongst these it is included that the local authority should assess: the severity of the offence, the nature, mitigating factors and culpability.

The database allows the local authority to be able to share information concerning rogue landlords and the specific offences committed. This allows local authorities to keep track off or take further action with those who have a poor track record.

In my view whilst the database being accessible by the local housing authority is a step in the right direction, the lack of public access is somewhat worrying. It will be interesting to see how far the government go and whether they extend access to the members of the public. In my view this allows for open transparency and may curb the rise in rogue landlords.

Conclusion

I am ever hopeful that these changes will offer some protection for those living in dangerous, overcrowded properties facing harassment and illegal eviction. With over 4 million private rented homes in the UK these changes are an important regulatory measure (even if the rogue landlord constitutes the minority). However could there be similar measures for rogue tenants who act just as unfairly? It will be interesting to see how this area of law develops.