The Housing and Planning Act was introduced last year, but some aspects set out in its framework have yet to come into force. The Government recently revealed its intentions regarding banning orders, which could see landlords or agents banned for at least a year at a time, and its proposed database of criminal landlords and agents.
The Government says that banning orders are designed to be punitive and will be put in place to protect tenants from a minority of rogue landlords and agents.
It’s hoped that banning orders will encourage offenders to drastically improve the standards of the service or accommodation they're offering, or leave the Private Rented Sector (PRS) altogether.
The database of ‘rogues’ will be updated and accessed by local authorities and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and intends to be a reference point detailing the minority of criminal landlords and agents working in the PRS.
So let’s take a look at how the Government’s current consultation suggests banning orders might work, as well as some of the offences which could constitute a ban for a landlord or agent.
How will banning orders work?
The consultation proposes that banning orders can only be made against people who have been convicted of a banning order offence (see below). Any landlord or property agent subject to a banning order won’t be able to earn income from letting property, property management or acting as a letting agent.
Once someone’s been convicted of a banning order offence, their local authority can apply to a tribunal for a banning order to be made. Bans must be in place for a minimum of 12 months, and the duration of each banning order must be confirmed as it’s made.
Anyone who has been convicted of a banning order offence - or has received two or more civil penalties (within a year), as an alternative to prosecution - can be included in the database of rogue landlords and agents. Meanwhile, anyone who has a banning order made against them must be included in the database.
What offences could constitute a ban?
The consultation document outlines a long list of possible offences that could be worthy of a banning order.
There are a number of housing order offences which could also count as banning order offences. These include illegally evicting or harassing tenants, as well as a range of issues covered by the Housing Act 2004; from failure to comply with improvement notices, to allowing Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) to become overcrowded.
Other proposed banning order offences set out in the consultation are:
- letting to an illegal immigrant
- using violence or threatening violence towards a tenant
- committing fraud in relation to the occupier of the rental property
- using the property to cultivate cannabis
- colluding with a tenant to commit a criminal offence - i.e. tax evasion or supplying illegal drugs
What’s the reaction been?
Upon launch of the consultation, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell commented: “Banning orders will allow us to drive out the worst offenders and help make sure millions of hard-working private tenants across the country are protected from exploitation."
There’s been some criticism of the Government's intention not to make the database of criminals open for public access. The managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, David Cox, has been particularly vocal: "If there is no public access to the database, how will landlords or tenants understand if they are using a banned agent and how do agents see if those applying for employment are blacklisted or banned?” he said.
When might the measures be introduced and how can you have your say?
The Government’s planning on introducing the various measures, as part of the Housing and Planning Act, on a phased basis over the next 10 months. From April 2017, extended rent repayment orders and provisions on civil penalties will be introduced. And the banning orders and criminal database will be introduced from October 1.
The current consultation on the phasing-in of banning orders opened on December 13 and runs until February 10. The DCLG’s preferred response is via this online survey, and you can view the full consultation document here.