Right now, the private rented sector is a wild west which at best costs a fortune for somewhere you can’t call a home and at its worst is dangerously unsafe. In fact, it’s so unregulated that right now the government doesn’t actually know how many landlords are out there.
It means that for renters, there’s little guarantee that your home meets safety standards, or that your landlord won’t rip you off. There’s no guarantee that you can find a suitable home at a fair, affordable rent or that you will be able to live there as long as you want it.
Every day we hear from renters who’ve suffered from rogue landlords. Take Laura, a mum of two living in Wandsworth. Laura was evicted from her home last year after reporting her landlord to the council for faulty electrics and infestation of rats. It was the second time in two years that she had to make the move - she told us: “It is ruining my children’s lives. They have no stability”.
That’s not to say there haven’t been attempts to fix the system, it’s just that they aren’t working. The Government currently has a database of “rogue” landlords, but just four entries have been included on it since it launched last year and worst of all, tenants can’t even see if their landlord is on there.
Last week, ex-footballer Dexter Blackstock was fined £25,000 for failing to license 12 homes and keep smoke alarms in working order. The system worked - but only because Nottingham Council has a licensing scheme. Not all councils have licensing schemes and they rarely cover entire towns so they only provide a patchwork of regulation.
If you have a spare property, becoming a landlord is pretty easy. You don’t have to join any organisation, tell the council or have anyone check your property is safe before letting it out. Despite having to declare any rental income to the taxman, there is an estimated £600m of tax going missing.
That’s why Generation Rent is calling for a National Register of Landlords. The idea is pretty simple: a one stop shop that holds information on all landlords across the country. If you are looking for a new home, you can check whether your landlord is registered there, and if they aren’t - you could steer well clear.
And the best part? The register for the most part already exists. Landlords are required to protect tenants’ deposits in one of three tenancy deposit schemes - this is a pretty good start for a national register.