Dealing with Rogue landlords
The current legislative system which deals with rogue landlords, I believe is current inadequate and failing to deter those landlords who choose to prey on the less fortunate. One of the suggestions I have seen mentioned is a national database covering all housing-related convictions.
Not quite at the level of organized crime but there are serial criminal landlords currently operating in this country. However, some boroughs eventually catch up with them but these form of landlord then moves into other areas to continue their unscrupulous businesses, and local authorities don’t have the powers to tackle them. This is obviously giving the majority of honest private landlords a bad reputation and then have to bear the cost of additional legislation that these criminal landlords will not follow.
The legislation is actually playing into the hands of criminal landlords. The private landlord will have to pass on the additional costs via the rent thus increasing the rental charge. The criminal landlord will then have the price advantage as will not have the increased incurred costs.
Currently a database listing landlords who are subject to banning orders is in the Housing and Planning bill. However, I am sure it would benefit if this was expanded to include private landlords who have other housing-related convictions.
In addition to the legislation being inadequate the process for prosecuting criminal landlords, can take up to 16 months and can end up costing the council. Now I am not saying a council will not meet its legal obligation but in the current climate of cuts, but to undergo a process which could further impact on an already stretched budget?
Recently Wolverhampton City Council, discovered a property with 11 serious contraventions and fined the landlord £2,600. The council was, however, left out of pocket by almost £5,500 from costs.
Many within the industry are calling for:
• A much tougher “fit and proper person” test via an initial screening process which is designed to remove rogue landlords.
• Letting agents to be brought under the same legislation as estate agents so the bad operators can be disbarred.
• Stronger sentencing guidelines for magistrates and a wider range of penalties and costs passed on to the rogue landlords.
It is clear from numerous recent cases that a national information source of rogue landlords is urgently needed to allow councils to identify the serial rogue operators and target them more effectively. I think the government has paid lip service to the matter and potentially seen it as a means to generate income rather than a process to protect society.
Until the punishment outweighs the benefits these criminal landlords will continue to operate.