The government has launched an official consultation process on a package of measures to crack down on what it calls ‘rogue property agents’ and ‘rogue landlords.’
Although aimed primarily at the private rental sector, the consultation includes measures which apply to a range of potential property management activities.
The Department for Communities and Local Government says banning orders would be put in place when rogue agents or landlords commit serious offences, mostly against tenants.
This could include failing to carry out work required by the council to prevent a health and safety risk to tenants, threatening tenants with violence, or illegally evicting them.
If a landlord or property agent is subject to a banning order they could be prevented from letting or managing a property indefinitely. Their name would also be included in a national database.
“Banning orders will allow us to drive out the worst offenders and help make sure millions of hard-working private tenants across the country are protected from exploitation” according to housing minister Gavin Barwell.
“The banning orders will force the most serious and prolific offenders to either drastically improve the standard of the accommodation they rent out, or to leave the sector entirely, with a minimum ban lasting 12 months and no upper limit for a maximum ban” he says.
Those subject to banning orders will also not be able to earn income from renting out housing or engaging in letting agency or property management work. Landlords could also find that their property could be made the subject of a management order by the local authority, which allows the council to rent out the property instead.
Proposed banning order offences as outlined in the consultation include:
- illegally evicting a tenant;
- renting out a property decided to be unsafe as a dwelling by local authorities;
- failing to carry out works required by local authorities to prevent health and safety risk to tenants;
- renting out a property to an illegal migrant;
- using violence, or threatening violence against a tenant;
- making fraudulent applications for housing benefit, or committing identity theft;
- using the property to cultivate cannabis;
- theft or criminal damage;
- colluding with the tenant to commit a criminal offence, such as tax evasion or the supply of illegal drugs.
DCLG says where someone has been convicted of a banning order offence, the local authority can apply to a first-tier tribunal for an order banning that landlord or property agent from being involved in the letting and/or management of property.
The full consultation is here and closes on February 10.
The government’s initiative has had a frosty welcome from David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, who describes the suggestion that the database of rogue agents and landlords should be available only to councils and the DCLG as “completely illogical.”
He says: “If there is no public access to the database how will landlords or tenants understand if they are using a banned agent and how do agents see if those applying for employment are blacklisted or banned?”
Cox also warns that unless legislation is ‘joined up’ with the 1979 Estate Agents Act, there could be problems, “Without combining the lists, there is a very real danger that a banned sales agent could set up as a letting agent or vice versa” he warns.