The government is proposing to introduce a new and shockingly wide range of offences that could lead to letting agents being included within its recently-introduced ‘rogue agents’ database.
This is to include failing to sort out problems with rats and mice, permitting overcrowding, spam emailing customers, publishing misleading adverts, not being a member of a redress scheme, not providing an EPC to a tenant, not fitting fire alarms and offering homes to let that contain unsafe furniture.
At the moment the database, which went live in April 2018, is only available to local authorities to check, and letting agents are only included if their actions are within a narrow range of the worst criminal activity and have resulted in a banning order.
The database has drawn ridicule rather than plaudits. In April it was revealed by The Guardian that only four entries had been made in the database as hard-pressed councils, who are tasked with populating the database, have struggled to find the resources to upload entries.
Despite this, the government also wants to enable prospective and existing tenants to see the database.
“The aim is to provide a more comprehensive range of information to assist existing and prospective tenants in making an informed choice about who to rent from,” the proposals say.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, says: “We welcome government plans that would stop private renters unwittingly agreeing to rental contracts with rogue or criminal landlords.
“Having access to a public database will offer renters a better chance of protecting themselves and their family. But, far and away the most important thing the government can do to tackle rogue landlords is make it impossible for them to evict tenants without a valid reason.”
“We have long argued for the database to be publicly available, and we’re pleased the Government is listening,” says David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark.
“It’s important that everyone has access to the database, particularly so agencies can vet potential employees, and landlords and tenants can be made aware if they’re using a banned agent.
“We do however still believe legislation should be combined with the 1979 Estate Agents Act, as without combining the lists, there is a real danger that a banned sales agent could set up as a letting agent or vice versa which will do little to improve the standards or perception of the industry.
“Particularly in light of RoPA, there needs to be a coordinated approach to regulation and enforcement moving forward. We also believe that access should be granted to professional bodies, such as ARLA Propertymark, so the industry can work together to eliminate rogue operators once and for all.”
Read the full list here.