Lettings market blacklist should be made available to public
When certain letting agencies make the headlines for the wrong reasons, a common consequence is for the public to tar others in the sector with the same brush. It’s a shame how the reputation of an entire industry can be impacted by such a small minority.
Promisingly, October 2017 saw the launch of a database containing a ‘blacklist’ of individuals banned from working in the lettings market, including rogue landlords. This is undoubtedly a positive step that will rid us of unfavourable agents, and benefit the reputable companies which work hard to build trust with their clients.
However, the database is currently only available to local authorities, along with the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). There have been calls for the blacklist to be accessible to the entire private rental sector so they, too, can take advantage of the insight.
Reporting on the matter, PropertyWire details how the database was created as part of the Housing and Planning Bill 2016, which also sets out standards regarding rent repayment orders and banning orders. It explains how numerous trade bodies have insisted that letting agents, landlords and their tenants should be entitled to access the database, for various reasons.
The article cites the automated payment platform PayProp, which hails the database as complementing enhanced regulation, comprehensive redress, improved industry standards and greater competition to boost transparency in lettings.
Yet, the firm outlines how the database is just one of a plethora of initiatives, and there is much to be done to eradicate the minority of criminals who still operate in the market.
PayProp’s chief operating officer, Neil Cobbold, commented: “It’s been a long time in the making, but we hope that this new development will help local authorities keep track of those acting unlawfully in the private rented sector.
“Provided there are the resources available to manage and maintain the database, it could prove a valuable tool in protecting tenants from [substandard] rental accommodation and criminal operators.”
The database keeps a list of people in England who have received housing offences convictions. Both letting agents and landlords can be added to the list if they’re given a financial penalty in relation to a banning order offence at least twice within a one-year period. All entries are maintained for the duration of the banning order, before being removed.
A London-specific database is also currently being created in partnership with local authorities and will launch with information from councils in Newham, Brent, Camden, Southwark, Kingston and Sutton.
“It’s interesting to see that London is introducing its own database of criminals and it may have a greater chance of success due to being accessible to all parties,” Cobbold noted. “In the future, there could be potential for it to merge with the national database and for all the information to be made available for public use.”
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