No landlord banning orders issued in first 12 months of new law

 
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Despite taking effect in April 2018, there hasn’t been a single new banning order issued by the government for rogue landlords.

More than a year after they were first introduced, it’s been revealed that not one single rogue landlord has received one of the government’s new banning orders. 

The key new power was launched in April 2018 to help fight in the battle to eliminate the owners of UK rental property who give everyone else a bad name with their illegal or morally dubious activities. 

The new laws are supposed to prevent rogue landlords from operating, with court orders banning them from letting property across England. The details of rogue landlords must also be entered on to central government’s new rogue landlord database for local authorities to share, while English councils can also make discretionary entries on to the computer system.

However, more than 12 months after it went live, a freedom of information (FOI) request has highlighted that the details of just four landlords have been placed on the database. What’s more, their names can’t be accessed.

Inaction in action

Despite government estimates suggesting there are approximately 10,500 rogue landlords operating in England – as well as the government previously saying that it anticipated more than 600 of the worst offenders would be entered on to the database by now – only four entries have been made and no banning orders have been issued.

Why, the therefore, is the system proving so inefficient in rooting out the country’s worst landlords?

The ineffectiveness of banning orders and the rogue landlord database were revealed after a FOI request filed by the Guardian newspaper in March 2019.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), in its response to the FOI request, refused to disclose the identities of the four landlords now on the system. That’s in spite of Theresa May promising to give the public access to the system following a joint Guardian and ITV News investigation into rogue landlords last year.

“Given what we know about the bad behaviour of a small number of landlords, it is very, very disappointing there aren’t more being prosecuted and banned,” said Clive Betts, a Labour MP and the chair of the housing, communities and local government select committee.

Meanwhile, Jacky Peacock, a director of the tenants’ charity Advice4Renters, said it was ‘pretty shocking’ that there had only been four entries a year after the database was established.

“Not a single banning order has been served on any rogue landlords who should be prevented from letting unsafe properties, after ignoring formal local authority notices and prosecutions,” she added.

Back in October 2018, after the Guardian/ITV News investigation had revealed that the database was almost bare, MHCLG said it expected to see entries in the database increasing in the new year, but this has failed to materialise.

Telford and Wrekin was the first council to use the new database, with a discretionary entry made in December, followed by two discretionary entries from Camden and one from Oxford in the months since.

How are banning orders issued?

Since April last year, councils in England have been obliged to use the database to enter the details of rogue landlords who are issued one of the government’s new banning orders. For a banning order to be issued to rogue operators in the private rented sector, local authorities can apply to the courts to stop a landlord from letting their property either directly or through an agent.

In addition, local authorities can opt to use the new database to enter the details of those landlords convicted of a ‘banning order offence’ – which covers 14 offences ranging from unlawful eviction to licensing breaches and harassment. Likewise, the details of those who have received two financial penalties for housing offences in the past 12 months can also be inputted.

The government’s attempts to stamp out rogue landlords have also been criticised for not taking into account historical offences, with both banning orders and discretionary entries into the database only applying to offences committed since 6 April last year.

‘A lengthy process’

In defence of its database and plans to eradicate rogue landlords from the sector, Heather Wheeler, the minister for housing and homelessness, said that the process to build cases and secure convictions is a lengthy one and argued that it’s therefore unsurprising that there has only been a limited number of entries at this stage.

She then stuck to the line the government took after the revelation of the Guardian/ITV News investigation. “The rogue landlord database is targeted at the most prolific and serious offenders,” she said. “We expect the number of entries to the database to increase during the year as only offences committed from April last year can be included and it can take time to secure convictions.”