PUBLISHED GUARDIAN ON LINE 21 JULY 2019
Campaigners have welcomed government plans to open up its rogue landlord database to prospective tenants, as part of proposals to give greater protection to renters.
A package of reforms published for consultation includes proposals to stop no-fault evictions, which the charity Shelter has described as “far and away the most important thing the government can do” to help renters.
The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, announced plans on Sunday to allow public access to the register of the worst landlords, which is currently open only to local authorities.
The move comes after an investigation by the Guardian and ITV News last year found that the database’s contents would be kept secret from the public, prompting a government U-turn and pledge from the prime minister, Theresa May, to open the register.
Tenants will be able to to look up their landlords and letting agents by name on the database to check their track records, with blacklisting possible for sex and drugs offences as well as failing to provide proper accommodation.
However, only a tiny fraction of an estimated 10,500 rogue landlords operating in Britain have so far made it on to the database, which went live in April 2018. Freedom of information requests submitted by the Guardian earlier this year found that only four landlords had been added, by three councils.
The government has said the list will grow and that it expects about 600 of the worst landlords to be added in time, once prosecutions for offences have been completed.
Brokenshire said: “This database has the potential to ensure that poor-quality homes across the country are improved and the worst landlords are banned, and it is right that we unlock this crucial information for new and prospective tenants.
“Landlords should be in no doubt that they must provide decent homes or face the consequences.”
Responding to the announcement, Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said the database “will offer renters a better chance of protecting themselves and their family”.
Generation Rent’s director, Dan Wilson Craw, said it was “another victory for renters” but he warned that it would need “much more effective enforcement to identify all landlords who have been breaking the law”.
There are more than 11 million private renters in England across 4.5m households, according to English Housing Survey figures, and the percentage has doubled since 2002 from 10% to 19%.
Campaigners also welcomed progress towards abolishing no-fault evictions, in which landlords can force tenants to leave by simply issuing a form called a section 21 notice.