The Government is seeking the opinions of those involved in the private rental sector, including landlords, landlord groups, mortgage lenders, brokers and letting agents, regarding its plans on tackling rogue landlords.
The discussion paper, released on Tuesday 4th August 2015, states: “The private rented sector is an important part of our housing market, housing 4.4 million households in England.
“The quality of privately rented housing has improved rapidly over the past decade with surveys showing that 84% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, and staying in their homes for an average of 3.5 years.
“The Government wants to support good landlords who provide decent well maintained homes, and avoid further regulation on them.
“Unnecessary regulation increases costs and red tape for landlords, and can stifle investment. It also pushes up rents and reduces the choice for tenants.
“However, a small number of rogue or criminal landlords knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation. We are determined to crack down on these landlords so that they either improve the service they provide or leave the sector.”
Government Consultation on Tackling Rogue Landlords
The Government has announced plans to create a blacklist of landlords and agents that are found guilty of relevant housing offences, to expand the provision of Rent Repayment Orders and new measures to crack down on abandonment.
These proposals are included in the discussion paper, which also recommends a civil penalty regime for housing offences and a new fit and proper person test.
Policy Director at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), David Smith, comments on the document: “The RLA welcomes this consultation.
“It is important to look at those things that already work well within the sector and also to use targeted changes to adjust those policy ideas or pieces of legislation, which are not working as intended.
“The RLA is pleased that the Government is taking a practical approach by looking at key areas in which improvement can be made, rather than trying to replace or overhaul current mechanisms which often work well.
“However, this must not be seen as an opportunity to place new burdens on a sector already facing a string of new regulations and the prospect of major changes to the tax regime.”1
The new plans arrive after action has already been taken to improve the service offered by landlords in the UK. The Government has made £6.7m available to a number of local authorities in an attempt to tackle the problems with rogue landlords in their area.
Already, around 40,000 properties have been inspected and more than 3,000 landlords are now facing further enforcement action or prosecution.
Within the Deregulation Act 2015, the Government introduced further protection for tenants against retaliatory evictions, if they have a legitimate complaint.
This will come into force in October this year and the measures will ensure fairness for landlords, making the eviction process simpler in appropriate circumstances, such as continued rent arrears. This will also come into effect in October 2015.
If Parliament approves, landlords will also be required to install smoke alarms on each floor of their rental property and test them at the start of each tenancy, and install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms, from October this year.
The discussion paper continues: “The Government is determined to go further and drive rogue landlords out of business.
“Our proposals include a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents, tougher penalties for the worst offenders, extending Rent Repayment Orders and introducing civil penalties.
“We also want to support good landlords and this document invites views on tackling the problem of abandonment in the sector, where a tenant simply disappears, leaving the landlord uncertain over their right to repossess.
“We are keen to engage with local authorities, landlords, letting agents and tenant groups on all of these issues. We want to understand how best to implement our proposals and avoid any adverse outcomes.”1
The Government has also confirmed that it will publish a separate consultation document soon, regarding the planned extension of compulsory licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
The new measures would only apply to England the closing date for comments is Thursday 17th August 2015.
The document, titled: Tackling rogue landlords and improving the private rental sector – a technical discussion paper, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/450862/Discussion_paper_FINAL.pdf