Here at the news items that we have found from the past week.
Investigation into Rogue Landlords
There has been a major feature in the Guardian for the past week following a joint investigation with ITV News which revealed that many ‘rogue’ or criminal landlords were carrying on with impunity.
These are a few of the many articles in the series:
- This is a report of a survey they carried out which looks at fines and penalties.
- This article looks at the loopholes which allow landlords to carry on renting despite convictions for housing offences
- This article looks at one rogue landlord, in particular, Bernard McGowan (here is a video of him trying to escape a reporter by going to the toilet and getting into the wrong car).
- This article looks at how a freezing tower block was a ‘cash cow’ for foreign investors
- This article shows that 53 councils have not prosecuted a single landlord despite some having numerous ‘non decent’ homes in their borough
There is a powerfully worded Guardian Editorial (“slumland Britain: a housing market failure”) which is highly critical of the Tories record on housing. There is also an article on comments by John McDonnell and an article by David Lammy.
David Lammy sums it all up by saying:
We are living in a new Rachmanite era of squalid housing on steroids. Highly organised gangs of rogue landlords have been allowed exploit the housing benefit system unscrupulously. Wealthy investors from Britain and abroad target desperate local authorities, making millions by consuming the lion’s share of housing benefits in return for tiny rooms with shoddy and dangerous facilities. Even when landlords are found to have committed housing offences, which show them to be unfit, they continue to collect rent. …
To fix this broken system, we need a complete rebalancing of the power relationship between landlords and tenants. The underlying issues of the housing crisis will only be solved by the construction of social and genuinely affordable housing on an unprecedented scale. Meanwhile, law-breaking and exploitative landlords on the private rental market should be recorded comprehensively and transparently on the government’s database. Local authorities must be given the teeth to properly punish the worst predators.
In my opinion, there is a lot to be said for having the properties of landlords who fail to improve after enforcement action, forfeit to the state, who could then use them (after renovation) to house the homeless under their statutory duties. In fact, I think Local Authorities may already have the power to do this.
Rogue landlord’s database
After adverse publicity about the government’s ‘rogue landlord’ database, particularly after the Guardian and ITV News investigation has revealed that after six months there is nothing in it, Teresa May is now saying that tenants will have access:
only offences committed from April this year can be included, and it can take several months to secure convictions. We are clear that we expect to see entries in the database from the new year. We also intend to make information in the database available to prospective and existing tenants.
That’s all very well, but surely if tenants are to have access, landlords and letting agents should have access also. For example, landlords need to know which rogue letting agents (the database also covers agents – or will when there are entries in it). Letting agents will also want to have access so they can check staff applicants are not listed.
It’s not like the government has not been told this before. However, it takes an ‘expose’ in the press for them to do anything. If they are actually going to do anything of course.
Ghost tenants scam
Waltham Forest council have been busy prosecuting a rogue landlord under the Rent 2 Rent scam that Ben wrote about in his series on scams of rogue landlords. In this case, the tenants were merely a front for subletting the property as Officers found around 16 tenants in residence!
In fact, Ben’s crew Safer Renting are still involved in this case, dealing with the fallout to the sub-tenants, facing eviction, lost deposits and an uncertain future. Ben tells me that over the past couple of years these situations have become the most common facing TROs and advisers in the capital.
Property Guardian case
Nearly Legal has an interesting Property Guardian case which looks at whether the Guardian has a license or a tenancy.
The Court found that this particular occupation was a license – part of the reason for this was a consideration of the overall purpose of the guardian scheme. However this is not all good t,o the property owners:
The more that guardian occupation is clearly not under a tenancy because of the purpose of the scheme, the less likely their property owner clients are to get the desired pay-off of not having to pay commercial rates on an empty commercial property.
- Experian revealed that reporting tenants’ rent DOES help improve their credit scores
- Lord Porter tells the Guardian he believes self-build housing is the next step for council housing
- A civil liberties group has accused the Legal Aid Agency ‘blocking access to justice for homeless people’
Newsround will be back next week.