What’s the best way to tackle rogue landlords?

Following a spate of headlines in the The Guardian last week concerning rogue landlords, we ran a Twitter poll asking people ‘what is the best way to tackle them?’ 1,264 people responded, and 43% think tougher sentences is the best way to go.

29% of respondents thought tenants should have more powers, while 17% voted in favour of simpler legislation. Only 11% thought more legislation would be the best course of action.

 

 

Let’s look at each option in more detail.

 

More legislation (11% of the vote)

It’s unsurprising this option garnered the least amount of votes. At the latest count, there are over 140 acts of parliament and more than 400 regulations affecting landlords in the UK. The sentiment from the poll, the press and parliament is that this amount of legislation should be more than sufficient to tackle the problem of rogue landlords.

The key word here is ‘should’. Clearly there are still issues when repeat offenders are still allowed to operate after they’ve been banned. The Guardian reported on the loopholes landlords like these use to dodge the law, and generally loopholes exist where the law is complex and convoluted. More law means more complexity and more opportunities for landlords to go rogue.

 

Simpler legislation (17% of the vote)

In the Select Committee report on the private rental sector in April 2018, Dr Julie Rugg said that the legislative framework made enforcement difficult for councils: “One of the big issues that relates to some of the legislation is that it tends to split issues between condition-related issues, management-related issues, and issues that relate to letting agents [ … ] All of these things have been added on to other bits of legislation, and now we are in a situation where it is hard for a local authority that thinks, “Which bit of legislation do I use to deal with this particular problem?” and then finds that none of the bits of the regulation that they have got to work with will deal with that particular problem, because none of it fastens up.”

As we said before, the more complex the law, the more confusing for prosecutors and the easier it is for talented lawyers to find loopholes. Let’s not forget, many of the issues uncovered by the The Guardian and ITV are perfectly legal. A focus on simplifying and clarifying the law would go a long way.

 

Tougher sentences (43% of the vote)

It’s little wonder that tougher sentences on rogue landlords was the most popular suggested course of action. The recent spate of Guardian headlines around rogue landlords read ‘Banned but still in business: law fails to stop rogue landlords’, and ‘The rogue landlord’s loopholes: how the law fails renters’. The message? The law is ineffectual.

In the April 2018 Select Committee report mentioned earlier, the National Landlords Association (NLA) summed up the issue perfectly: “Local authorities already have sufficient powers to enforce standards and deal with “rogue landlords” in the PRS. The NLA has been arguing for better enforcement for quite a while and for local authorities to properly utilise the powers they currently enjoy […] The drive to improve enforcement activities of local authorities should be aimed at more effective use of these powers, rather than the introduction of new regulations.”

There is a frustration across the sector that rogue landlords are still able to operate despite legal action against them. Great landlords get tarnished with the rogue brush, the government looks toothless and tenants get a raw deal. Not enforcing the law to its fullest is a lose-lose for everyone.

 

More tenant powers (29% of the vote)

Over the last few years, tenants have gained more rights than ever to tackle the problem of dodgy landlords. The trouble is, the reputation landlords have – compounded by headlines about rogue landlords – clearly leaves tenants feeling like they have no recourse when problems arise. In fact, 44% of tenants said that fear of eviction prevented them making complaints to their landlord.

To our mind, this is as much an educational as it is a  legislative issue. . Tenants aren’t up to speed on their rights, and a lot of landlords aren’t necessarily up to speed on best practice and the latest legislation. It’s one of the reasons we founded the Hamilton Fraser Academy for landlords and letting agents, and one of the reasons we would urge tenants to really understand their existing rights before entering into any contract.

 

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, there’s plenty of material on our site to improve your knowledge. Head here for more insight.

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