Not a single rogue landlord has been issued with one of the government’s new banning orders, a year after the key new power in the battle to root out the country’s worst rental property owners was launched.
New laws which took effect in April 2018 mean that slum landlords handed one of the new bans by the courts are prevented from letting out housing across England. Their details must also be entered on to central government’s new rogue landlord database for local authorities to share.
English councils can also make discretionary entries on to the computer system. However, even using this less onerous method, the details of just four landlords have been placed on to the database in the 12 months since it went live – and their names cannot be accessed.
The government has estimated there are 10,500 rogue landlords operating in England, and previously said it expected more than 600 of the worst offenders to be entered on to the database.
The lack of use of banning orders and the rogue landlord database has been revealed after a freedom of information request filed by the Guardian in March.
In its response to the FOI request, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government refused to reveal the identities of the four landlords now on the system, despite Theresa May pledging to give the public access to the system in the wake of a Guardian and ITV News investigation into rogue landlords last year.
Clive Betts, the chair of the parliament’s housing, communities and local government select committee, said: “Given what we know about the bad behaviour of a small number of landlords, it is very, very disappointing there aren’t more being prosecuted and banned.”
Jacky Peacock, a director of the tenants’ charity Advice4Renters, added: “It’s pretty shocking if there are only four entries, 12 months after the database was established. Not a single banning order has been served on any rogue landlords who should be prevented from letting unsafe properties, after ignoring formal local authority notices and prosecutions.”
Last October, after the Guardian and ITV News investigation revealed that the database was lying empty, the housing ministry said it expected “to see entries in the database increasing in the new year”.
Telford and Wrekin was the first council to use the new database, with a discretionary entry made in December. It has since been followed by two discretionary entries from Camden and one from Oxford.
Since April 2018, councils in England have been compelled to use the database to enter the details of rogue landlords who receive one of the government’s new banning orders. Local authorities can apply to the courts for an order to be issued to the sector’s worst offenders, which prevents a landlord letting their property either directly or through an agent.
Local authorities can also choose to use the new database to enter the details of landlords who have been convicted of a “banning order offence” – a range of 14 offences from unlawful eviction and harassment to licensing breaches – or who have received two financial penalties for housing offences in the past year.
Both banning orders and discretionary entries into the database only apply to offences committed since 6 April last year.
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The secrecy surrounding the central government database, and the sparsity of entries, contrasts sharply with a separate rogue landlord database run by the mayor of London’s office. The London version allows the public to view prosecutions of rogue landlords in the capital’s boroughs for a year after the conviction date.
Heather Wheeler, the minister for housing and homelessness, said: “The rogue landlord database is targeted at the most prolific and serious offenders. It is a lengthy process to build cases and secure convictions and it is therefore not surprising that there are only a limited number at this stage.
“We expect the number of entries to the database to increase during the year as only offences committed from April last year can be included and it can take time to secure convictions.”