Attempts by the government to crack down on rogue landlords have so far been labelled pathetic and weak, partly because of complex and vast rules which have created a confusing environment. An investigation from ITV News and The Guardian has discovered that convicted landlords who have failed to pass “proper and fit” person tests are continuing to operate as landlords, by exploiting legal loopholes. The test is covered by housing legislation in Wales and England, and was implemented to protect vulnerable tenants across the country. The research also found that local authorities have been unable to submit a single entry to central government’s new database of rogue landlords since its launch six months ago.
Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, stated that the investigation has demonstrated how weak the legislation is, and that it is also not being correctly enforced. He added that there is no justification in treating bad landlords more gently than others that break the law. Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, has said that the government’s new database on rogue landlords has failed to log one single entry, labelling it as pathetic. He added that the secrecy of the database means that if offenders were logged, tenants would be completely unaware, explaining that transparency and action is required.
Reflecting on the investigation from ITV and The Guardian, Tom Mundy, co-founder of Goodlord, a proptech company, believes that the problem behind the failure of the landlord licensing scheme from the government, and the rise in the number of rogue landlords, lies partly with the fact that the private rented sector is slow to embrace new technology. He explained that the research has highlighted how easily rogue landlords can operate with impunity. Even if they are caught exploiting tenants, they could simply move to a new location and repeat this exploitation with a different tenant. This shows how some elements of the rental sector are lacking in accountability and transparency, which has mostly to do with how the sector on the whole has been reluctant to embrace technology. Ineffective initiatives from the government have also been inadequate in creating an equal and fair industry.
Mr Mundy explains that questions should be asked on how a digital history of landlords and tenants could be created in order to provide a more transparent, and safer, industry for all. Generation Rent has arrived, and the sector must be ready for it. The government’s current licensing systems must be redesigned in order to encourage more good and honest landlords, instead of frightening them away from the industry and leaving those landlords who understand how to exploit legislation and the system. He highlighted that there are numerous systems available now which digitise the tenant-landlord relationship, and provide security for both, with the added benefits of being increasingly cost-effective and efficient.
Tenants are able to protect themselves to a greater extent by searching for letting agents and landlords who have adopted, and frequently use, types of proptech. It is not only a good indication that such a landlord is professional and has no issues to hide, but it also provides a secure and reliable digital trail of documentation and contractual terms. These can prove invaluable if there is a dispute.
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