Mayor warns rogue landlords and letting agents: ‘You have nowhere to hide’

Tuesday 19 December 2017 

  • Sadiq fulfils manifesto promise to launch Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker – London’s first online ‘name and shame’ database to help private renters 
  • More than 600,000 renters can now check dodgy landlords and letting agents as records from the first 10 boroughs go live 
  • Mayor calls on government to follow his lead with a publicly accessible national database

 

Unscrupulous landlords and letting agents who exploit their tenants will have ‘nowhere to hide’ as the Mayor Sadiq Khan today fulfilled a manifesto commitment and launched a new public online database to protect people privately renting homes in the capital.

The Mayor’s new Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker – the first such database in the country – ‘names and shames’ landlords and lettings agents who have been successfully prosecuted or have faced civil enforcement action for housing offences.

The Mayor believes the database, published on the City Hall website, will give Londoners greater confidence in renting a home by allowing them to check a prospective landlord or letting agent, as well as acting as a clear deterrent to the minority of landlords and letting agents who behave dishonestly.

Ahead of its launch, records from 10 London boroughs (Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Kingston, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest, Westminster) and the London Fire Brigade have been published on the database, meaning more than 600,000 renters can now check rogue landlords and agents in their area – equivalent to 25 per cent of all renters living across the city.

A further eight boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Lewisham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets) have agreed to submit records in the coming weeks and the Mayor has today said he hopes all other London councils will soon add their data to help protect tenants living in their boroughs. The Mayor has no power to require local councils to submit their data, but has been working in close partnership with all boroughs to develop this new database on a London-wide basis.

As well as records on prosecutions and enforcement action, the database will offer tenants a tool for the easy reporting of landlords they suspect of unscrupulous practices. It will also contain records from the three national organisations offering a free and independent service for resolving disputes with their landlords (known as ‘letting agent redress schemes’*).

The Mayor is calling on the government to do its part in cracking down on dodgy landlords and agents, including by ensuring its compulsory national rogue landlord database – which it committed to introducing two years ago – supports London’s initiative and makes data publicly available to tenants. Ministers’ current plans are to develop a database that can only be accessed by the relevant authorities.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The housing market in London is difficult enough for Londoners to navigate, without those landlords and letting agents who behave unscrupulously leaving tenants living in appalling conditions, despite often paying sky-high rents. I promised to do everything within my powers to help Londoners facing this problem – I will not stand by while they are exploited.

“Many landlords and agents across London offer a great service – but sadly some don’t. My new database is about empowering Londoners to make informed choices about where they rent, and sending rogue operators a clear message: you have nowhere to hide.

“Boroughs on the database and I are using our existing powers to help London’s renters – but to go much further we need investment and resources from central government. For a start they should stop dragging their feet on the creation of the compulsory national database they promised to set-up. Before Ministers have even laid the regulations for their database, we’ve planned, built and launched ours – and unlike the Government’s plans, we have made our database accessible to the public.”

The Mayor’s database will empower renters to check a specific landlord’s record, as well as look at landlords and agents in their area who have faced enforcement action. Londoners can also use the checker to report unscrupulous practises – a crucial step in simplifying the process of a tenant reporting their landlord to their local authority as the first stage in bringing about enforcement action.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “From overcrowded housing to poor escape routes and badly maintained fire doors, our fire inspectors regularly find homes that are just too dangerous to live in.

“Making it easier for tenants to find out if a potential landlord has flouted fire safety rules will act as a deterrent for the small number of dishonest landlords who pose a large risk to their tenants.”

Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council, said: “We’ve worked closely with the Mayor to produce and now launch this checker, which will help our residents get the information they need on landlords and letting agents who cut corners on safety and regulation.

“This is all about protecting our residents’ housing rights and making landlords aware of their responsibilities. We’re seeing homes being let at outrageous rents, where kitchen-diners have been subdivided to create more bedrooms to pack more people in. All this does is exploit people who are willing to accept any-room as they struggle with the cost of living.

“Camden has a large rental market and we’re here to work with and provide advice to all landlords to ensure they are able to meet their obligations.”

Cllr Cathy Roberts, Kingston Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Housing, said: “We are delighted to be part of this innovative scheme which sees local authorities in London unite to tackle rogue landlords in the Capital and work collaboratively to keep people safe.

“We want to encourage landlords to be compliant and, through this database, residents are able to make an informed choice when renting a property. It makes absolute sense to have a wider system in place and the council has been working closely with the Greater London Authority and partners to deliver this impactful platform.”

Cllr Sem Moema, Hackney Council’s Mayoral Advisor for Affordability and Private Renting, said: “With the number of private renters in Hackney doubling in the last ten years to over 34,000 – or one in three households – we’re determined to do all we can to create a fairer, more transparent system that prevents landlords from exploiting the increase in housing demand.

“That’s why we’re delighted to partnering with the GLA to become one of the first councils to introduce the new Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker, helping to provide renters with the information they need to find the right home and allowing us to clamp down on the minority of rogue landlords who tarnish the sector.

“We’re campaigning for better renting in Hackney, and have already become the first Council in England to launch a voluntary ban on letting fees, proposed new measures to license private rented homes, and introduced new tougher penalties against rogue landlords.”

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “More and more people rent privately in Islington, and we’re committed to helping make sure they have decent homes to live in.

“We will take action when landlords do not keep within the law, and we have a significant track record of bringing prosecutions when necessary.

“We strongly support the new Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker register, which will give residents more information when they are looking for a place to live.  Anyone with concerns about rogue landlords in Islington can confidentially contact the council for advice and support.”

Cllr Barrie Hargrove, Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Safety, said: “Southwark Council introduced private rented property licensing in January 2016. We have continued to actively pursue and prosecute bad landlords, whilst supporting willing, compliant legitimate landlords.

“This new rogue landlord and agent checker will help tenants to report bad landlords and help them make informed decisions when considering a new landlord, or agent. This is another great step towards achieving a good standard of private rented housing in Southwark.”

Cllr Khevyn Limbajee, Cabinet Member for Housing at Waltham Forest Council, said: “Waltham Forest Council already operate a licensing scheme for private rental properties and the new rogue landlord checker will provide an extra level of protection for private rental tenants.”

“We urge all tenants to use the Mayor’s criminal landlord database to inform their decision about where to rent. Rogue landlords give all landlords a bad name by offering sub-standard or dangerous accommodation, putting the lives of their tenants at risk by cutting corners. Our message is clear: this is unacceptable and we will take the strongest possible action against offenders.”

Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, London Councils’ Executive member for Housing, said: “The GLA’s Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker is powered by data from the boroughs and will give people who rent their homes access to information on whether their prospective landlord or letting agent has breached housing rules.

“By 2025 it is thought that 40 per cent of Londoners will be renters. As the market for rental accommodation grows, it is ever more important to crack down on rogue landlords and letting agents to protect people from unnecessary costs and sub-standard living conditions.”

Carrie Kus, Director of the Residential Landlords Association, said: “We all want to see criminal landlords rooted out of the rental market altogether. Any measure such as this which helps tenants to distinguish between the majority of law-abiding and decent landlords and those landlords who bring the sector into disrepute is to be welcomed.”

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “The dearth of affordable homes in London is forcing desperate people to rent from a minority of rogue landlords who repeatedly exploit their tenants, so it’s great to see the Mayor’s plan to publicly name and shame these offenders put into action.

“We now want the same safeguards in place for renters right across the country. If the government is serious about making rogue landlords a thing of the past, it must make good on the promise to create a national database.”

Seb Klier, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Generation Rent, said: “Renters trying to find a new home need to know if their landlord has a recent history of housing offences, so this is an important initiative from the Mayor and will make landlords think twice before they decide to act outside the law. Greater transparency will allow renters to make informed choices and stop rogue landlords from being able to operate under the radar.

“The next step is to extend this to all London boroughs, so that renters have this assurance wherever they live in the city, and then to make the data public across the rest of the country, so that we can push up standards for all private tenants.” 

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