Look out, law-dodgers. Following years of lobbying by the industry, as of April 6th this year, local authorities will have the power to issue banning orders to agents and landlords found to be in breach of certain regulations, under the <deep breath> Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Banning Order Offences) Regulations 2017 . Breaches include:
- Illegally evicting or harassing a tenant
- Failing to comply with improvement notice/prohibition order
- Failing to adhere to HMO rules or management regulations
- Providing false or misleading information
- Failing to adhere to an overcrowding notice.
Any person or lettings business convicted of an offence under the Act will be barred from operating in the industry, meaning they won’t be able to earn income from lettings or work as part of managing agents – potentially indefinitely.
At the same time, their details will be entered on a new ‘rogues’ register of blacklisted landlords and agents. “Hurrah!”, I hear you cry.
But this ‘rogues database’ doesn’t go quite as far as the industry wanted.
The current plan is that only local and central government will have access to the register, which will be updated by local authorities as their officers enforce legislation. This means you and I – and tenants and landlords wanting to check out agents – won’t be able to search the database. Not yet, anyway, but that might change in the not-too-distant future.
The glimmer of hope is that on 19th December last year, Sadiq Khan launched a ‘naming & shaming’ database specifically for London. At the moment, it holds records from ten boroughs (Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Kingston, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Westminster), which means more than 600,000 private renters (about 25% of London’s total) can check details of landlords and agents in their area. The next joiners are likely to include Croydon, Tower Hamlets and Barking & Dagenham, and the aim is to get the whole of Greater London on board as soon as possible.
There’s a public database and a facility for people to report rogue activity, plus a private database where local authorities and the London Fire Brigade can share more detailed information about offences.
The public ‘Rogue Landlord & Agent Checker’ shows:
- Landlords’ and agents’ full names
- The street name and first four post code digits of the landlord’s home address (to help distinguish between landlords with the same name)
- The offence and what type of enforcement action was taken against them
- What fine (if any) they received
- Who undertook the enforcement (i.e. London borough, LFB, redress scheme)
- The address of the rental property where the offence took place.
Given the huge variation in the way local authorities police their lettings market – largely down to the different levels of funding and manpower available to them – it’s impossible to say how heavily landlords will be penalised for a first or repeated breach. I suspect that some councils will come down harder than others – and, bear in mind, these banning orders are in addition to the maximum £30,000 civil penalty – so you really need to do all you can to stay on the right side of the law.
Ideally, use a letting & managing agent who’s a member of ARLA Propertymark, RICS or NALS, as that will take most of the legal compliance burden off your shoulders. If you do self-manage, the best way to keep up to date with the seemingly endless number of letting regulations is to join a landlord association. The Residential Landlords Association provides regular training programmes and legal updates and should help you steer clear of being unwittingly labelled a rogue.