Private landlord checker website launched

By agency reporter
December 20, 2017

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

The 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 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.

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 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.”

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 of 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."

Visit the Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker website here

* Mayor of London https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/mayor-london

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.