Rogue landlords are a problem for both renters and local councils, so when the government proposed creating a database on which all known offenders would be listed, the idea was widely applauded.
However, it’s now six months since the scheme was launched and there isn’t a single name on it.
If that wasn’t damming enough, it’s also been revealed that when names finally do start being added to the list, the public will be prevented from reading it.
Recent freedom of information requests filled ITV and the Guardian newspaper have revealed this simultaneously shocking and confusing news.
If the situation wasn’t already farcical enough, a further freedom of information request asking why the contents of the database are to be kept secret, has been met with the response…”sorry, but that’s a secret”.
In a statement regarding the situation, David Cox, The chief executive of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, has said:
“This is a truly ridiculous piece of legislation. There are no legal reasons for this database being kept secret. How on earth is a tenant supposed to know if a landlord has been banned? Also, professional bodies like ours may inadvertently endorse a banned landlord or letting agent by accepting them as a member.”
Whilst the government database remains empty, a similar database operated by the mayor of London’s office allows the public to view prosecutions of rogue landlords in the capital for up to a year after the conviction date.
Alex Schembri, co-founder of property technology company GetRentr, also criticised the decision to restrict access to the new government database, calling that the fact it was closed to the public “disappointing” and a “missed opportunity”, and as result would have much less impact that the London register.
In an attempt to clear up some of the confusion around the use of the government database, and specifically why it’s currently empty, a spokesman from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has explained that only offences committed after April 2018 can be included in the database and that it may take a number of months to secure any convictions.
Councils in England have been required to add details of rogue landlords to the government database since April of this year. The details of landlords who have been convicted of a ‘Banning order offence’ or who have received two financial penalties for housing offences in the past year can also be added.
Criticism of the government database and its use has been widespread with Richard Tacagni, managing director of the consultancy London Property Licensing, suggesting that the database would be of limited use when it comes to identifying repeat offenders, whilst in sharp contrast, the mayor of London’s database is:
“a priceless tool for those of us who are trying to improve the private rental sector.”
The MHCLG have now suggested that they are:
“…exploring further options for making information contained with the database available to prospective and existing tenants…”