BREAKING NEWS: Tenant register and tenant referencing now a legal requirement…
But what if? And why not?
What with landlords in Scotland already having a national register of landlords, ongoing debates regarding the introduction of a mandatory registration and licensing scheme in Wales – how long is it going to be before we see this introduced in England?
Is this really about fairness and equality between landlords, letting agent and tenants?
Or is it an exercise in tracking down and collecting data on all property owners?
Surely if it was about fairness and equality, as well as stopping rogue landlords, wouldn’t the Government want to stop anti-social and disruptive families from hell?
Every day we see ridiculous and puerile stories in the media about the “Scourge” of bad landlords in the UK – but the media don’t seem to pick up (or care?) on the thousands of bad tenant stories that can be found on the LRS website, but that’s another story..!
According to the Scottish landlord registration scheme, since 2006, there were only 40 rogue landlords operating in Scotland, costing over £400,000 for every landlord who has been refused registration ; even claimed as “farcical” by a Scottish Conservative housing spokesman.
Just as good landlords have nothing to fear about being accredited/licensed – good tenants should have nothing to fear about their behaviour being registered on a national register of tenants either. What better way to send a clear message to the unscrupulous that if they behave in a way that breaches their tenancy agreement that they will be denied a home in the future? ; Just as rogue landlords are refused to legally trade if they are found to be breaching the rules of their license.
Not only would this act as a deterrent for unscrupulous behaviour within communities but it would primarily improve the private rented sector and make it a more attractive housing option for all.
So, LRS asked leading organisations in the UK lettings industry for their input on the following questions:
- What are your views on making it a legal requirement for landlords and/or letting agents to register a tenant’s behaviour and reference their applicant tenants?
- What are your views on the implementation of a national register of landlords?
‘The creation of a tenants’ register seems to be a concept that at best will be problematic to create and maintain, and at worst may only serve to damage the important relationship between landlords and tenants.
A tool such as this, which undoubtedly will be used at the end of the tenancy, is potentially tainted by the fact that this is when the relationship between landlords and tenants is most under strain.
The main challenge it presents is in establishing a form of unregulated tenant feedback that is accurate, attributed to the correct person/people and not simply just a vehicle for vexatious comments.
The NLA has argued for many years that the best way to improve standards is through landlord development and accreditation and we remain unconvinced that a national register of landlords is the right approach to drive improvements and root out criminals within the sector.
The NLA believe that landlord accreditation, combined with targeted, intelligence-led enforcement by local authorities is the best way to find and successfully prosecute rogue operators who continue to flout the law.’
‘The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) has not called for a tenant register to be implemented in Scotland as whilst our members do ask us about a national tenant register, there are quite a lot of questions around how this can be made to work. We’re more than happy to take a look at any examples.
Regarding the matter of landlord registration, this is already in place in Scotland as a mandatory requirement. SAL has long reported the issues around cost and enforcement you can click here for more information.’
‘At Landlord Action we called in to pick up the pieces in often extremely difficult circumstances. There are unfortunately a minority of tenants who constituently engage in destructive and anti- social behaviour which often ends up costing Landlords dearly. We have always been strong advocates of thorough tenant referencing as a safeguard to Landlords letting out their property. Whilst in principal we welcome the idea of a rogue tenant database we recognise this needs to be approached with caution. As a registered law firm we advise our clients that posting potentially libellous reports on a publicly accessed forum could be exposing them to serious risk. We do however support the idea of a database linked to the court database. When an errant tenant has a money order granted against them as a result of a court hearing we feel this would be legitimately in the public interest to share this in the public domain to prevent some of the more extreme recidivist behaviour we have to deal with.
We have recently seen introduction of a Landlord database in Scotland. Anecdotally everyone we have spoken to feels the scheme is unnecessary and in reality ineffectual. Our overwhelming instinct is this latest government proposal represents a rather cynical attempt to obtain more data on landlords which will be used to persecute them further via HMRC as we have seen recently.The fact is the more regulation and bureacracy you put into place the greater the risk of driving the small minority of rogue landlords underground. The undisputable tuth is that the UK Housing Sector badly needs more homes and these type of punitive measures do a grave disservice to the vital landlord community and crucially discourage others from renting out their property.’
‘I have always thought that there should be a register of tenants who have left owing money, damaging property or being nuisance tenants however whilst it’s a fantastic idea it would breach the data protection act.
Click here to find out how LRS fully complies with the ICO and data protection guidelines.
This should be mandatory, all landlords should be accountable, much like lettings agents, but as it stands neither a landlord nor agent needs to be registered or licensed.’
Lyndon Baker, Landlord Referencing’s most vigilant Letting Agent Member:
‘This would not be an easy requirement to police since everyone has their own standard of reference. However the behaviour aspect would be interesting but subjective. It is all about perception. A “Trip Advisor” style website or register would be open to abuse, whereas the LRS system of putting landlords in touch with each other has the benefit of landlord talking to landlord. Additionally, a tenant may regard their behaviour as totally normal and acceptable whereas a landlord may have the opposite view. Talking to the landlord and getting both sides of the picture is preferable to just a bad or good rating on a register. The following sums up the potential problems: A landlord leaves a palace and a tenant moves into a slum. A tenant leaves a palace and the landlord gets back a slum!
What would the register show and who would see it? A simple and inexpensive registration scheme of a Landlord having a registered number that has to appear on all adverts would be a first step. No registration number for whatever reason means a fine of six times the monthly rent advertised. A similar fine could be imposed on the newsagent/newspaper/website. This could be easily policed and make it not profitable for rogue landlord not to register. A first step to eliminating those landlords who flout the rules.’
‘Regarding the NLA’s reply; I do not agree with this. LRS has achieved this and in fact our system is strengthening the relationship between landlords and tenants right across the UK. I do not believe that it would be “undoubtedly used at the end of the tenancy” as at LRS we have seen tenants and landlords working harder, together to maintain better references.
Landlords have been giving references on an unregulated basis for as long as we can all remember. It is up to individual Landlords to ascertain a previous landlord’s reference in their professional opinion. There is no difference in making something a legal requirement to pass on a reference by a landlord, and in point of fact as a legal requirement it may safeguard tenants more from hostile comments made by landlords, which they can now do anyway.
We understand that development through accreditation is a very important part in making Landlords understand what is required of them, both morally and in law. However this does not take away from the fact that these laws should also apply to the very people that rent the property and that awareness of their responsibility within a contact of tenure is just as important as a landlord’s responsibility to provide that contract of tenure.
I wonder from the Scottish Landlord Associations point of view whether they have turned a blind eye to many a problem, on the grounds that they have not been asked the question from their landlord members? It would seem we need not put locks on our doors because the burglar has not asked to burglar us..! The fact is that there are burglars out there, there are bad landlords out there and there are bad tenants out there.
Therefore I would like to ask the Scottish Landlords Association to query their members; that if introduced to LRS (as a legal and safe way to monitor and report on their good and bad tenants, in order to achieve a better Private Rented Sector), what would they say?
The beauty of the LRS system is that we do not allow libellous posts/comments on tenants within the forum or anywhere else on the site – we simply put landlords in touch with other landlords to carry out references. The difference is that if a tenant chooses not to disclose who their previous landlord was, that landlord then has the opportunity to check whether they have been previously registered within the LRS system and if so, can then be put in touch with their last landlord(s) to obtain a true and honest reference.
Unfortunately, as I’m sure everyone is aware, a system which is gathered by the courts would be ineffectual, as the majority of landlords do not take their rogue tenants to court these days.
We understand it would not be easy to police, but the truth is that is why the LRS system is the best referencing system around. It is a fact that with the onslaught of new legislation in the lettings industry it is a definite call to action for Landlords to be more professional, and therefore they must be offered a quick, uncomplicated and inexpensive way to assist one another in not taking problematic tenants from one another. We believe that LRS is the best tool for the job, considering we can now offer a 5 point referencing plan for less than the price of a decent bottle of wine – just £12 (inc VAT).
If everyone joined this system landlords and tenants alike could make the entire PRS transparent together, giving everyone across the UK the opportunity of a level playing field.
For example; today at LRS we have seen an extremely dodgy group of tenants moving around and because of the unification of good Landlords and Letting Agents in the Somerset area the LRS system has now stopped this unscrupulous group from accessing decent rental property 4 times this week already. Click here to read the full story.
The problem is, is that they will eventually get in somewhere else and they will cause mayhem within those communities. It is currently a landlord’s choice whether they risk this from happening, however I and the LRS team truly believe that if referencing tenants was a mandatory requirement for landlords and letting agents that this would never have to happen again, as well as truly weeding out the minority of rogue landlords operating within the UK.’