The Government has said that private renters could soon be able to use a database to check if a potential landlord has been blacklisted for poor treatment of their tenants.
The rogue landlords archive will be opened up to the public to give people “the crucial information they need before signing on the dotted line”.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire (pictured) has promised the change, saying: “It is right that we unlock this crucial information for new and prospective tenants.”
He announced a 12-week consultation on opening up the database, meaning the final decision will rest with the new Government to be announced when Theresa May leaves office on Wednesday.
Brokenshire said: “This database has the potential to ensure that poor quality homes across the country are improved and the worst landlords are banned and it is right that we unlock this crucial information for new and prospective tenants.
“Landlords should be in no doubt that they must provide decent homes or face the consequences.”
Name and shame
Ministers came under fire last year when it was revealed that any listings on the database – set up in April 2018 – would be kept secret from prospective tenants. Only local authorities are given the information, to enable them to target illegal landlords and ‘name and shame’ those failing to provide safe and decent homes.
It is still unclear how many names are actually on the database. In April, there were just four – despite a government estimate of 10,500 rogue landlords operating across England.
The consultation will also examine widening the list of offences that will warrant blacklisting on the database, such as breaching the Tenant Fees Act.
At present, a landlord can be listed for 14 “banning order” offences, from unlawful eviction and harassment to licensing breaches, or for two fines for housing offences in the past year. However, a freedom of information response to The Guardian three months ago revealed not a single banning order had been issued, and that just four names were on the database.
The campaign group Shelter welcomed the move, while arguing what mattered more was swift action on the Government’s pledge to stamp out evictions without proper reason.
“Having access to a public database will offer renters a better chance of protecting themselves and their family,” said Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive. “But, far and away the most important thing the government can do to tackle rogue landlords is make it impossible for them to evict tenants without a valid reason.”
Image by Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0