The Mayor of London’s blacklist of landlords and letting agents – an online database of rogue operators compiled and managed by local authorities – is a leading example of increased transparency in the private rental sector, according to automated rental payment provider PayProp.
The Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker was launched in London in December last year. It keeps records of landlords who have been prosecuted or fined for rental sector offences, as well as letting agencies that have been expelled by their official redress schemes.
Available for public use, the blacklist allows London tenants to check prospective landlords and agents, while aiming to act as a deterrent to criminal operators.
Enforcement remains key
Currently, ten London boroughs are participating in the project. This means that 25% of local authorities, covering around 600,000 London tenants, are committed to publishing their records, including the name of the offending party, address of the rental property and details of any convictions.
Neil Cobbold, the COO of PayProp in the UK, says: “It’s pleasing that a quarter of London boroughs are supporting Sadiq Khan’s blacklist, but, of course, it’s vital that the remaining authorities get on board in the near future.
“At the moment, however, too many of London’s tenants are not covered by the register, which is a shame, as it could become an extremely handy tool for those moving between properties.”
He continues: “As the project moves forward, it’s key that the authorities taking part update their records on a regular basis. Raising awareness of the scheme will also be key.
“The whole idea of this register is to provide tenants with information about unscrupulous landlords and agents. Therefore, Sadiq Khan and his team – alongside local authorities and the London lettings industry – need to do all they can to increase awareness so that this initiative is wholly worthwhile.”
A necessity for London
The latest English Housing Survey, released in January, shows that the private rental sector is now the biggest tenure of all in the capital.
“It’s clear for all to see that the private rental sector is integral to London’s housing, present and future,” Cobbold notes. “That’s why it’s so important that tenants, the authorities and the wider property industry can keep tabs on criminal landlords and agents operating in the capital.”
National blacklist delayed
The newly-renamed Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government is also due to launch its own national blacklist of criminal operators in April.
Part of the Housing and Planning Bill, the register was originally due to begin operating last October, but its introduction has been delayed.
The national list has also attracted controversy due to the decision to make it available to only local authorities and central Government.
Cobbold comments: “We continue to await the introduction of the national database of criminal landlords and letting agents.
“However, as we said last September, the implementation of the national list could benefit from following some of the examples made by its London equivalent. In the future, it could be a practical solution if the two lists work side by side.”
Calls for tenant database
Following the introduction of the London landlord and agent blacklist, and the expected introduction of a nationwide equivalent in just a few weeks’ time, there have been many industry calls for the consideration of a scheme that blacklists rogue tenants.
Cobbold believes: “The progress being made in terms of identifying criminal landlords and letting agents is admirable, but it’s understandable that many professionals feel there should also be a register of offending tenants.
“A minority of tenants damage properties, pay rent late or cause problems in the local neighbourhood, so it only seems fair that landlords and agents should be aware of these people.”
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