04/11/2017

A new blacklist of rogue agents and rogue landlords has been launched, but faces criticism from several trade bodies because it will only be available to the Department for Communities and Local Government, and local authorities. The list will include agents and landlords, will be maintained by local authorities, and will be made available to government.

The offenders’ list was launched this month as part of the government’s Housing and Planning Bill 2016 and includes details of agents and landlords that are convicted of housing offences and that receive 2 or more financial penalties within a 12-month period.

Although most parties have welcomed the move, stating that it should help protect tenants from substandard accommodation and rogue landlords, they also argue that it doesn’t go far enough.

Most of the criticism has been levelled at the fact that the list will not be made public, which means that only local authorities and government will have access to it. Critics have said that the list should be made public, not only to act as further deterrent but also so that tenants, agents, other landlords, and third parties can view the list. They have said that the list should be combined with a similar list pertaining to those with banning orders under the Estate Agents Act 1979; agents that are prohibited from selling property.

Share The List

We hear a lot of horror stories from tenants that have been stung by rogue landlords and agents; tenants that have been evicted unlawfully, have struggled or never received the deposit back that they are entitled to, or where landlords have failed to meet health and safety standards and put the health and welfare of tenants in jeopardy.

In the future, landlords and agents that are found guilty of these types of offence can receive a court banning order prohibiting them from operating in the private rental industry. Their names could then be included in the offenders’ blacklist.

We, like many others, do not believe that this will offer the level of protection that tenants deserve.

The list will only, effectively, be shared with the government. This means that tenants and other third parties cannot check to ensure that a landlord is not renting out property illegally. Local authorities would have to check, and there has been no indication that individuals will be able to apply for details of a landlord and whether they appear on the register.

Even the likes of ARLA Propertymark, which is the largest trade body in the industry, will not have access, under current rules.

A Combined Record Of Offenders

A similar registry already exists for estate agents – agents that buy and sell property, rather than rent it out. However, the list will not be combined with the lettings list, which means that rogue letting agents could legally and legitimately become an estate agent. The reverse is also true, so rogue estate agents could set up as letting agents.

Separate lists are a major obstacle to transparency. It means that tenants could end up with an unreliable landlord or agent.

Some companies have also been calling for a similar list, but for rogue tenants. Landlords and landlord groups point out that rent payment history is not reported to credit agencies, and that of the 161,000 possession claims made last year, only those where the landlord has paid to enforce a money order would show up as a CCJ and therefore show up in tenancy checks.

The London List

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that he wants to name and shame rogue landlords in the capital, in a bid to protect tenants. He has established a list that will be available to the public. The accessibility of this list means that it will be more beneficial to tenants and agents. It can be accessed by anybody that wants to ensure a potential landlord is legitimate and it will almost certainly become more popular than the official government list.

However, its scope is also limited.

It initially only includes details of landlords from a handful of London councils, although there are plans to extend to include more. There are no plans for this list to expand beyond London, however.

If the list proves to be more successful than the new blacklist, it could place pressure on the government to improve the accessibility of their list.

Resources

Some critics have also raised the question of resources. Will the government have the manpower and the time to update the list? Agents will be needed to investigate claims by tenants, to place restrictions and banning orders on those that do not comply with rules and regulations, and they will need to manage and maintain the blacklist.

At PDF Estates we believe that a publicly available blacklist of rogue agents can only be a positive step, and we think this should ultimately be the government’s aim.  Greater transparency and improved visibility is important to ensure the success of this scheme, and we hope that the London Mayor’s list will encourage the government to expand on their own scheme.

PDF Estates

At PDF Estates, we are committed to ensuring a positive experience between landlords and tenants. We stand with the government in their bid to eliminate letting agent fees. We don’t charge tenants any setup fees, amendment fees, renewal fees, or check out fees.

You can see some of the typical rates that landlords and agents charge in our post here as well as the rates that we pass on to tenants (there is a huge difference).

We also believe that the rogue agent blacklist has the potential to help protect tenants from unscrupulous agents, but in its current state it doesn’t fulfil that potential. It should be made publicly available, in order that everybody can benefit and tenants can enjoy a greater level of protection.