A new database that names and shames rogue landlords and lettings agents has been launched in London with the city’s Mayor declaring that they now have nowhere to hide.
The Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker is the first such database in the UK and lists landlords and lettings agents who have been successfully prosecuted or have faced civil enforcement action for housing offences.
The Mayor Sadiq Khan said that he 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 the London boroughs of 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% of all tenants living across the city.
The boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Lewisham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets have agreed to submit records in the coming weeks and the Mayor 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 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,’ said Khan.
‘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,’ he pointed out.
‘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,’ he added.
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.
‘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,’ said London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety Dan Daly.
‘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,’ he added.
Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, said that her council has worked closely with the Mayor to produce and now launch the checker. ‘It 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,’ she explained.
‘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,’ she added.
Cathy Roberts, Kingston Council’s cabinet member said that the aim is to encourage landlords to be compliant. ‘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,’ she pointed out.
Hackney has seen the number of private sector tenants double in the last 10 years to over 34,000 and Sem Moema, Hackney Council’s mayoral advisor for affordability and private renting, said the council wants to create a fairer, more transparent system that prevents landlords from exploiting the increase in housing demand.
‘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,’ Moema said.