On top of tax reforms and stamp duty on second homes which are hitting landlords, now calls are being made for a national mandatory register of private landlords.

Sedgefield MP, Phil Wilson, called for a new bill to set up the register in his speech to the House of Commons. He believes it will help track those absent landlords who let their properties fall into disrepair. He said members of the public often raise the problem of empty homes being vandalised.

Although the MP accepted that most private landlords behave responsibly, he stated that there were some who did not. He said there were some who only cared about the rent and were not bothered about their tenants or who they rented their properties to. He argued that if landlords were regulated with a mandatory licensing scheme and register, this could go some way to addressing the problem. These neglected or empty properties are attracting vandals, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour. As well as having to deal with these issues, the police’s workload is increased because of a lack of information about the landlords. If they had contact details of the landlords through the register, then any matters could be resolved more speedily, saving police time and money.

The MP said there were already selective licensing schemes in his constituency in Durham, but he wondered how effective these could be in tackling the problem of rogue landlords. However, not everyone agrees with his proposal. Fellow MP, Sir Christopher Chope, outlined why he is opposed to a national mandatory licensing scheme. He said that the Residential Landlords Association argues that the last thing landlords need is yet another financial burden – or stealth tax – put upon them. Once again, responsible and professional landlords would be paying the price for the minority of rogue landlords. At present, good landlords comply with all regulations, such as joining the selective licensing schemes, while rogue landlords continue to ignore the rules. It has to be argued why MPs would think anything would change if the scheme was nationwide rather than selective at present. Also, who would administer the scheme and check that all buy-to-let landlords were included in it? Would it be the cash-strapped councils who could ill-afford to take on further responsibilities?

The RLA is against a mandatory register, because it would be expensive to administer and good landlords would be forced to pay to be on it. Any rogue or criminal landlords would continue to work outside the law. The RLA also points out that the government can already access the information it needs to set up a register using the data regarding landlords who are already on the Gas Safe register, for example. The organisation has come out in support of a self-regulation system for landlords. Landlords could join this scheme to deal with standards or practice and complaints. Those who were not in the scheme could still be dealt with through enforcement by the local authorities.

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