The Housing and Planning Act 2016
When the Housing and Planning Act 2016 came into force it created massive waves among the concerned housing community.
Housing rights groups focused on the extension of the right to buy for housing associations and duly protested. Quite rightly in my book.
But nestling in that piece of legislation was some very useful stuff for rogue landlord enforcement officers and tenants who were victims of the worst excesses of criminals.
Rent Repayment Orders
Back in April 2017 victims of rogue landlords and enforcement officers who support them received a much welcome addition in the form of the extension of Rent Repayment Orders.
Rent Repayment Orders have been around for well over 10 years, allowing councils who identify breaches to claim back 12 month’s worth of rent benefits paid.
Although tenants could claim back 12 month’s worth of rent under a Rent Repayment Order – where the property was unlicensed they could only do so if the council had prosecuted first. However, from April 2017 there doesn’t have to be a prosecution and Rent Repayment Orders are available for harassment and illegal eviction too, offering the luckless tenant a swift route to redress and compensation.
But what about Banning Orders?
Still waiting in the wings is the much vaunted and anticipated provisions, whereby rogue agents and landlords can be given a banning order and placed on a countrywide rogue landlord database.
All of us enforcement Greyhounds have been sitting peacefully in the pens, waiting for the rabbit to run by and the gates to open on the 1st of October 2017. But it didn’t happen.
The anticipated banning order offences never got clarified, despite such luminaries as Andrew Arden committing themselves to hard copy print on what they were expected to be, in the recent LAG publication “Quiet Enjoyment – Protection from Rogue Landlords” that I reviewed a couple of weeks back.
Government also didn’t release any information as to why they hadn’t clarified the offences leading up to the implementation date of the 1st of October. In fact, they have gone completely silent on the matter.
The plan is, for a central database that will be populated by local authority enforcement types. And yet, it is my understanding that to date, Government haven’t even put out an invitation to tender for the software contract. Even though this part of the HPA was due in last weekend.
So officially, local authority enforcement officers are hot to trot, in the fight against rogue landlords. But in respect of banning orders and a rogue database, there’s nobody to chase and nothing to chase them with.
Why is this?
Are government so enmeshed in Brexit that they have no time for anything else?
Reading the news it certainly looks that way.
You rush through (and I sat on the consultancy panel at the Home Office so trust me, “Rush through” is an accurate term” ) a major piece of legislation that will affect and improve the lives of many tenants suffering under rogue landlords. And then just ignore it and hope that nobody notices?
I’ve never seen this before.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is this month to usher in his own rogue landlord database, which is likely to be titled the “Watchlist”, containing names of landlords and agents who have been prosecuted for offences in the capital.
Database v Watchlist
The big difference between the database and the Watchlist however, is that whilst only local authorities are to have access to the database and only for specific purposes, the Watchlist is going to be available to the general public so that they can check out their prospective landlord or agent before signing on the dotted line.
This was something I pushed for on the consultancy group meeting, along with Shelter and a handful of others but were shouted down by the NLA and other landlord groups also in attendance.
So at least there is some light for London renters anyway.
But will it be kept up to date?
Both the Watchlist and the Database rely on information being inputted by local authority enforcement officers. It remains to be seen how fluidly this will work in practice as the project rolls out.
Anyone who has seen the poorly populated Ministry of Justice map of housing prosecutions might find it difficult to stay positive – but I for one am.
I am feeling positive.
I think the Watchlist is a great idea for tenants and landlords alike. Landlords will be able to check out letting agents as well, making due diligence a little easier.
However, the lack of progress on the Housing & Planning Act database and banning orders is deeply disappointing.