I road test the London Landlord Database
While government have been faffing around and being generally tardy with the national rogue landlord database, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has stolen their thunder and made a list for the capital available months before the DCLG. You can see this here.
The launch garnered quite a bit of press coverage over the Xmas period but as one of the people required to populate it I thought I would test drive it. Having done so, if I were Jeremy Clarkson I would call the Stig in to stand beside it, legs set firmly apart and arms folded in manly approval.
I read eagerly through the list and saw the names of many old friends staring glumly back at me.
Still at the starting line is the National Rogue Landlord Database
In case you missed it the national rogue landlord database kept getting delayed, the current active date is for April 2018, if you can hold your breath that long and presuming no further delays.
Landlords can be placed on the national list following prosecution for
- a range of housing-related offences (which were published in December 2017) or
- 2 strikes of the new civil penalties
But the big bummer is that only council enforcement bods can have access to it, which to my mind massively reduces its usefulness.
Anyone can access the London Database
No such “You’re not responsible enough to view it” approach with the London Database, which can be accessed by the public.
Meaning that would-be tenants can check out their intended landlord or agent before signing on the dotted line which, reason suggests, would be it’s most important function. A point that I and several others raised at the Home Office consultation meeting on the Housing & Planning Act back in August 2015, only to be rejected.
Landlords quite rightly perform checks on tenants before taking them on and it’s appropriate that there should be somewhere that a tenant can go to make sure they aren’t signing up to the landlord equivalent of Kim Jong Un.
The database is growing fast
At the moment 10 of the 32 London councils have placed their prosecuted rogues on the list, with another 8 to show their hands in the coming weeks.
But additionally, the Mayor’s list also contains the names of those prosecuted by the London Fire Brigade and agents expelled from redress schemes, which is really helpful.
In terms of interface, it’s a fantastically simple thing to use.
You can search by landlord or agent name, property address or by prosecuting body.
The landlord/agent street address is given, although not the building number. The type of conviction is listed along with the date of prosecution and the date it expires on the list, which is a mere 12 months after being entered, a minor niggle but even someone as zealous as me wouldn’t argue that it should be a lifetime entry……………much as I would like to with some of them.
But there is always the ever-reliable website “WayBack Machine” if the people managing the list forget to clear the cache memory, or alternatively concerned parties such as myself would do well to print off the list at regular intervals and keep a record.
And yes, I will………..It’s my job.
Stoping Rogue Landlords operating is key
I sincerely hope that my co-workers in procurement teams would also use the list regularly to stop the widespread practice, borne of a desperate homelessness crisis, of signing up landlords and agents to provide properties for vulnerable people who colleagues in enforcement have prosecuted, rewarding them with a range of incentives when they owe thousands in council tax and have been convicted of running slums or harassing their tenants.
Targets have to be met and the last thing you want are the kinds of inconvenient truths supplied by Tenancy Relations Officers or Environmental Health.
There. The dirty linen is aired.
There will be some that slip through
Of course, there will be get-arounds for committed rogues. The use of aliases is tremendously widespread in my end of the business as is the practice of periodically changing the name of your lettings agency when the bad reviews and the news stories begin to stack up, or word on the street is you just can’t be trusted.
There are also those who simply won’t care if their name is on a list and there is the mountain to climb in getting tenants, homelessness units, student accommodation officers, housing charities etc to know about the list and to use it.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day and those of us who will be accessing it professionally will find it a very handy little tool.
It also fans the dwindling flame of my enthusiasm for prosecuting under the Protection from Eviction Act, something regular readers will know I’m quite scornful of, given the paltry fines issued, because while the magistrates may give out little more than a slap on the wrist most of the time I will at least be able to warn the public about the perpetrators through this list.
Having said all this, I have already heard some grumblings about possible legal challenges to it but that’s to be expected I suppose and it will raise some interesting moral debates which might help publicise it.
I don’t see why anyone would be against the list apart from the people on it.
Nobody will end up there by accident
The procedures for prosecutions are long and arduous. More people escape prosecution than not. For every rogue that I know has been prosecuted I know 20 more who have so far evaded it by luck, lies and a crap judge.
So all in all…
A very good and useful initiative. Let’s hope the public access element influences the DCLG on the national database.