Consultation on tackling rogue landlords – the government’s response
On 11 November 2015, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published their consultation response on measures to crack down on rogue landlords who rent out unsafe, overcrowded and badly managed properties.
In their earlier consultation document published on 3 August (read here), the government acknowledged that 4.4 million households now rent privately in England, with surveys showing 84% of tenants are satisfied with their accommodation and stay in their homes for an average of 3.5 years.
The government set out their intention to support good landlords and avoid excessive regulation and red tape, whilst expressing their determination to crack down on the minority of rogue and criminal landlords through a range of new measures.
According to DCLG, responses were received from 615 organisations and individuals across the sector, including individual landlords and tenants. The key findings have been outlined below.
Sharing tenancy deposit scheme data
84% of respondents agreed that tenancy deposit scheme data should be made available to local authorities to help them identify and tackle rogue landlords.
Blacklisting and banning rogue landlords and letting agents
92% of respondents agreed that there should be a database or backlist of rogue landlords and letting agents to improve information sharing amongst councils and support intelligence-led enforcement action. There was also support for the concept of banning orders to target the worst offenders.
Fit and Proper Person assessment
All property licence applicants must pass a fit and proper person assessment and 82% of respondents supported proposals to introduce a more robust assessment process, including the requirement for a standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check on each applicant.
Back in 2010, previous DCLG guidance had advised that councils should not routinely carry out police or other criminal record checks. This proposal risking creating further delay and incurring additional costs in what is already a lengthy application process.
Expansion of rent repayment orders
Over 80% of respondents supported proposals to extend Rent Repayment Orders (RROs) to situations where a tenant has been illegally evicted, or the landlord has failed to comply with a housing enforcement notice.
Depending on the circumstances, these powers enable either the council, or the tenant, to reclaim up to 12 months rental income from the landlord.
New civil penalties for certain housing offences
78% of respondents supported proposals to introduce new civil penalty notices for certain housing offences, with the income to be retained by the council. Penalties of up to £5,000 are being considered.
There was less clear-cut support on proposals to fast track the possession process for situations where the tenant has disappeared, with 51% of respondents thinking the government’s proposals would be very effective.
57% felt that the lack of a court process could create too much uncertainty and that criminal landlords could misuse the process to harass and illegally evict their tenants.
Many of these measures will now be included in the Housing and Planning Bill that is working its way through Parliament and it likely to become law in 2016. Some measures will be enacted through secondary legislation.
DCLG have said that the proposed landlord and letting agent banning orders could be granted by a First Tier Tribunal on application of a local authority, for serious offences or prolific offenders.
The government have suggested the penalty for breach of a banning order should be a civil penalty and a Rent Repayment Order, although more severe criminal sanctions such as a term of imprisonment may be more appropriate.
The government’s full consultation response can be found here.