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How can tenants check for rogue landlords and letting agents?

Posted on 2018-04-17

While the majority of landlords and letting agents are law-abiding and eager to provide the best possible service to tenants, it’s a sad fact of life that some rogue operators slip through the net.

For London tenants, though, help is at hand thanks to the recently-introduced Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker, which enables tenants to check the credentials of prospective landlords and letting agents to ensure they are reputable.

How does it work?

London Mayor Sadiq Khan came up with the idea of the Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker to ‘name and shame’ those giving the Private Rental Sector (PRS) a bad name, publicly exposing the minority hurting the reputation of the many landlords and agents who provide a great service. 

The Checker has been specifically designed to empower tenants as well as supporting local councils and other organisations to use the appropriate enforcement powers they have at their disposal to root out rogue operators. What’s more, it’s there to act as a deterrent to landlords and letting agents who may be considering acting unlawfully or unscrupulously.

It does this by enabling tenants to see whether a landlord or agent has been successfully prosecuted or fined by a London council, whether they’ve been successfully prosecuted or given a prohibition notice by the London Fire Brigade and whether they’ve been barred from a mandatory consumer redress scheme. Expulsion from such schemes means an agent can no longer operate legally.

Tenants can also report a rogue landlord or letting agent.

Things to remember

-          Records will only stay on the system for a limited time.

-          Every record shows the date when it will no longer be viewable to the public. 

-          The Checker only covers certain offences and only private landlords and letting agents who have been fined or convicted of a relevant housing offence will appear on the Checker. 

-          The Checker could show a landlord or agent looking like they've received a £0 fine. If this is the case, it could be because they were convicted of multiple offences at once, with the judge issuing a combined fine. Subsequently, the fine will display against the first conviction only.

Does it cover the whole of London?

Currently the Checker includes information about landlords and letting agents who have been prosecuted or fined by the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Kingston, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Westminster, with City Hall working with all other London councils to get them signed up as soon as possible.

Information about landlords and agents throughout London from the three consumer redress schemes (The Property Redress Scheme, The Property Ombudsman and Ombudsman Services: Property) and the London Fire Brigade is also included. 

Nationwide register set to be introduced

When Sadiq Khan introduced London’s online ‘name and shame’ database in December 2017, he called on the Government to follow his lead and roll out a publicly available database on a national basis to help tenants avoid the small minority of landlords and letting agents indulging in criminal activity. 

The Government, eager to clean up the sector where necessary, has since committed to a nationwide blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents. From April 2018, banning orders will be introduced for rogue operators, preventing those who commit (or have committed) housing offences from working in the lettings industry. This will be achieved by placing their details in a database that is expected to only be accessible to central Government and local councils, rather than London’s publicly available version.

Common banning order offences include: unlawful eviction and harassment of occupier; violence for securing entry; failing to comply with an improvement notice; fire and gas safety offences; offences in relation to House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing; harassment and stalking; and theft, burglary, blackmail and handling stolen goods.

A few bad apples

Of course, it has to be remembered that rogue landlords and agents are very much the exception rather than the norm, but their activities help to cast the lettings industry in a sometimes-negative public light. Anything that can be done to reduce that is therefore welcome.

As a tenant, the peace of mind that comes with being able to check the reputation of your prospective landlord or letting agent before renting a property or handing over a deposit will also be fully welcomed.

The Checker in London, and the incoming blacklist on a nationwide basis, should both help in the fight to root out those who try and give the lettings industry a bad name.

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