PropTech firm PayProp has welcomed the latest measures to clamp down on rogue elements within the lettings industry - but warns there’s still much to do to improve transparency and identify criminal operators.
The company’s UK chief operating officer, Neil Cobbold, particularly welcomes the launch of the government’s rogue operators database at the start of this month. Created and maintained by individual local councils, it is effectively a blacklist of those people banned from working in the private rental sector.
Agents and landlords can be added to the list if they receive a financial penalty in relation to a banning order offence twice or more often within a 12-month period. Each entry must be maintained for the period during which the order takes effect before being removed.
The database has been introduced as part of the Housing and Planning Bill 2016 which also includes measures for banning orders and rent repayment orders.
"It's been a long time in the making but we hope this new development will help local authorities keep track of those acting unlawfully in the sector. Provided there are the resources to manage and maintain the database, it could prove valuable in protecting tenants from sub-standard rental accommodation and criminal operators" he says.
However, the company says, as one initiative among many, it has a long way to go and there is still much work to be done.
For example, the blacklist is that it will only be accessible to the Department for Communities and Local Government and local authorities. Some trade bodies say tenants, landlords and letting agents should all be allowed to check the list too.
A similar but separate initiative is due to be introduced in the capital this autumn by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who says he intends to publish a database on his website which names and shames prosecuted landlords and letting agents.
It is being developed in partnership with local authorities and will initially include information from Newham, Brent, Camden, Southwark, Kingston and Sutton councils.
"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," Neil Cobbold adds.
"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."
Cobbold says products such as those from PayProp - which automate rental payment and reconciliation processes - can contribute towards improving transparency in the industry by allowing agents to easily track and trace all activity, while also providing them with a platform to improve their record keeping and communications with landlords and tenants.