Today the government announced a raft of measures that will be in the Housing Bill that being is being prepared for Parliament later this year.
Sadly much of the focus was on the extension of the duty to all landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. We’ve already expressed our opposition to this policy elsewhere, but it is particularly galling that this is being taken forward when there has been no public analysis of the West Midlands ‘pilot scheme’, and other groups have seen cases of it increasing discrimination in lettings.
Despite this policy dominating the headlines, though, the Department for Communities and Local Government has also announced more welcome plans to improve the systems for tackling rogue landlords.
Included in this package are a number of policies that Generation Rent has been calling for, including sharing tenancy deposit protection data of landlords’ details across local authorities, a blacklist of rogue landlords, fines from housing enforcement retained by the council, greater fines for the worst offenders and the extension of rent repayment orders to landlords who let out unsafe and dangerous properties.
Taken together, these policies all make sense and should help with local enforcement against landlords who are often making people’s lives a misery. The private rented sector is severely lacking data, so any move towards transparency that allows authorities to know more about the rogues in the sector is positive and will help those authorities to focus their limited resources on the worst offenders.
Retention of fines is also key because it both incentivises councils to really go after bad landlords and also provides revenue that can fund greater enforcement. Coupled with more punitive fines, it should start to see a move away from the impunity with which some landlords currently operate.
Finally, the extension of rent repayment orders for poor conditions means tenants who have suffered can gain some compensation and in the cases of local authorities taking back housing benefit, the taxpayer isn’t paying into the pockets of landlords who disregard health and safety.
We’ll be working in the coming months to make these measures as robust as possible and as beneficial for tenants as can be (email your MP about it here). However, there does remain an elephant in the room – the lack of a national landlord register.
All of the positive principles from today’s announcement – transparency, ability to focus resources, the ending of the culture of impunity – can only fully be achieved when we have regulatory system that properly covers all private landlords and properties, and can be linked to licensing. Such a system needn’t be onerous for law-abiding landlords but would give government much greater oversight of the sector and would start to provide a guarantee for renters on management and property standards.
In any case, we’ll be pushing the government as far as we can – but we also need your support to carry on doing this. We are trying to crowdfund £60,000 by the end of August, so please donate if you can and share with everyone you know. That way we can continue our fight to support renters across the UK.