New rules against rogue landlords and letting agents coming soon

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This government seem to be on a roll.  After years of promising that they would leave the private sector alone we are now seeing new regulation after new regulation coming onto the statute books.

The next act to come off the statutory conveyor belt looks to be the Housing & Planning Bill, probably sometime next year and this is aimed very much at ‘rogue’ landlords and letting agents.  Let’s take a look at some of its provisions.

The section we are concerned with is Part 2.  

Banning orders

Looking at the bill as currently drafted, it starts by providing for banning orders to be made against agents who have committed a ‘banning order offence’.  It looks as if the detail of this will be set out in regulations but they are likely to include convictions for housing related offences such as under the HMO regulations.  

Applications for banning orders will be made by Local Authorities (not disgruntled landlords or tenants) on application to the First-tier Tribunal.  It looks as if the tribunal will have some discretion as to whether the order is made or not, so they will probably only be made for the most serious offenders. The order will be for a minimum of six months but how much longer will be up to the tribunal.

Local Authorities will have the power to impose financial penalties on landlords and agents who breach banning orders of not more than £5,000.

 The consequences of a banning order will be that

  • The banned agent or landlord will not be able to hold an HMO license
  • Local Authorities may be able to take over the management of their property
  • The banned agent or landlord will not be able to transfer the property to an associate in order to avoid the penalties
  • They will be added to the Local Authority database of ‘rogue agents’
  • However any tenancy agreements made will not be invalidated

 The rogue landlord database

 There is quite a lot of detail about this in the draft bill.  It looks as if it will be a national database but maintained by the different local authorities - if that is not a contradictory concept.  

 It will have to include all persons subject to banning orders, but it looks as if Local Authorities will have a discretion whether or not to include persons convicted of a ‘banning offence’ who have not actually been banned.  There is going to be guidance published apparently.

 At the moment it looks as if only Local Authority officers will be able to have access to the database.  However this has been criticised - as landlords and tenants will surely have an interest in being able to research the background of any landlord or agent they intend doing business with.

 Rent repayment orders

 Rent repayment orders are currently used but only in limited circumstances.  The bill if passed would extend this further to include

  • Violent entry to property under the Criminal Law Act 1977 s6
  • Eviction or harassment of occupiers in breach of the Protection from Eviction Act, and
  • Breaches of the Housing Act 2004 - including breaching improvement notices and running an unlicensed HMO

 Rent repayment orders can be extremely expensive for landlords and so this should be a real deterrent.

 Conclusion

I doubt whether many of the landlords or agents reading this post will have much to fear from this legislation - indeed you may have a lot to gain, as the ‘rogue’ element taints the whole industry.

 However there is no doubt that the government is stepping up the regulation and it has never been more important for you to keep up with the law.

 The Landlord Law Conference next May in Manchester, sponsored by TDS, will go a long way towards keeping you up to date with recent developments and is a ‘must attend’ event - particularly for those of you actually in Manchester!

You can find out more and book your place here.  Or just go to www.lllconf.com (#lllconf is also our twitter hashtag!).

 Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer and director of the training company Easy Law Training Ltd.


Posted by on 9 December 2015

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