Letting agents and other industry professionals are being consulted ver changes to the sector’s regulation - including possible blacklisting of rogue agents and landlords.
A 16-page document has been posted on the website of the Department of Communities and Local Government, and announced through the Twitter accounts of the DCLG and housing minister Brandon Lewis.
The document begins with the familiar statistics to suggest that the vast majority of those involved with the private rental sector are honest, diligent and professional in their approach, but that the government wants to root out ‘rogue’ operators.
The document then goes on to describe sentencing policies and statistics for rogue landlords in particular, asking questions such as:
Do you think that current fines for housing offences generally reflect the gravity of the offence? If not, how can this best be tackled?
What has been the impact (if any) of removing an upper limit on potential fines for certain housing offences?
Should we consider setting minimum fines for repeat housing offences which have aggravating features? If so, what would be an appropriate level? Are there alternative approaches?
How should we deal with offences committed by a company if the offence was the result of a deliberate act or omission by an officer or officers of that company?
The document then goes on to say that the government is considering blacklisting serial offenders - including letting agents - in, for example, these circumstances:
- Offender has been convicted (or sentenced) in the Crown Court for any offence involving fraud, violence, drugs or sexual assault which was committed at any residential premises which the offender (or a person associated with him) owned or was involved in the management of and which neither he, nor the associated person, occupied as their main residence;
- Offender has been convicted (or sentenced) in the Crown Court for any offence that was committed against or in conjunction with any person who was residing at the residential premises owned by the offender (other than a person associated with him);
- Where an offender has been found guilty on two or more occasions of a relevant housing offence (whether in the magistrates’ court or in the Crown Court).
The document later asks specific questions about possible blacklisting of agents and others:
Do you agree that data held by the Tenancy Deposit schemes should be made available to local authorities?
Do you agree that there should be a blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents?
Do you agree with the proposed reasons for placing someone on a blacklist and issuing a ban?
Do you think it should be at the court’s discretion as to whether to include an offender on the blacklist or should this be mandatory?
Should local authorities have the right to place the offender on the blacklist on any of the above grounds?
Do you agree with the penalties proposed for breaching a ban?
If a local authority took over management of a property, how could we ensure that they did not incur a loss in managing the dwelling?
Should we consider stronger penalties, for example, seizing the property of persistent offenders who ignore bans? What safeguards would be needed to ensure that this power was used proportionately?
The full document is here and the consultation period is relatively brief - comments are required by late evening on August 27.