Housing and Planning Bill – what landlords need to know
A crackdown on rogue landlords, which could see them blacklisted, could soon come into force if tougher new Government proposals are passed through Parliament.
The landmark Housing and Planning Bill could give greater powers to ban unscrupulous landlords from letting properties, while adding their names to a nationwide database shared across all local housing authorities.
And as a deterrent, breaching a banning order could mean landlords face fines of up to £5,000.
Landlord banning orders
Offences that could see landlords being named and shamed may include harassing or attempts to evict occupants, failing to comply with improvement notices, prohibition orders, failing to control or manage an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and using violence to gain entry.
The banning orders would last a minimum of six months.
As a further deterrent, the bill proposes to introduce rent repayment orders - requiring rogue landlords on a banning order to pay back rent money to the tenant or housing authority.
The Bill has been read twice in the House of Commons and will be followed by a report stage before any amendments are made and it becomes law.
But while it may go some way to stamp out obvious bad practice in the rented sector, there are calls for a fair deal for the landlords and letting agents themselves, including clear definitions of what constitutes a 'rogue'.
Basic landlord responsibilities
While it is true that such definition is not clearly outlined in the Bill, landlords are regularly prosecuted for failing to provide safe housing.
By ensuring their properties have gas safety certificates, safe electrical systems and fittings and are compliant with fire safety regulations landlords can go some way to avoiding falling into that category.
David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) said plans could further taint an industry that many feel already requires widespread reform.
He added: "We are particularly delighted that the bill will make it easier for a banning order to be imposed to ensure that tenants are protected from unscrupulous individuals.
However, we are concerned that the introduction of a database of rogue landlords and letting agents will unfairly tarnish the industry as one in need of large-scale reform.
We urge the Government to ensure that this measure is applied appropriately so that entry to this database is based on well-defined criteria which does not vilify compliant and law-abiding agents.”
While banning orders tops the bill, other longer-term concerns have been raised that could affect the industry.
Most notably, legislation included in the bill could force local councils to provide up to 200,000 new starter homes - sold to first-time buyers with a 20 per cent discount of the market value of the property.
It could lead to a fall in the demand for rented properties, although Mark Hayward, managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), said the discount may still mean buying property could still be out of reach for many in a market where ‘house prices continue to shoot up daily’.
Reclamation of abandoned properties
But what are certain to please law-abiding landlords are the bill's attempts to simplify the reclamation of abandoned properties.
It proposes to do away with complicated legislation set out in the Protection of Eviction Act 1977 which has so far meant landlords having to go through the drawn-out process of applying for a court order.
Instead, landlords would be able to follow a simpler course of action to recover the possession of a property.
This includes giving a tenant notice to a specific date if conditions are met.
These include the following:
- A certain amount of rent is unpaid, for example two months if rent is paid monthly, or rent is payable quarterly and is more than three months in arrears
- A series of warning notices have been issued and the tenant has not responded in writing to the warning letters prior to the date given in the notices
We at Simple Landlords Insurance will be following the Housing and Planning Bill’s progress through Parliament. Check back at our website for more updates.