Government Urged to Tackle Rogue Landlords

Written By PropertyLoop
August 25, 2021

The National Residential Landlords association has urged the UK government to address its failure to effectively address the impact of rogue landlords across the private rental sector. The government is poised to release a White Paper detailing a roll out of upcoming reforms to the rental sector, however the NRLA has issued a warning that these impending measures will do little to dispel rogue landlords and the risk they present to tenants in England.  

Publishing a White Paper report of its own assessing the private rental sector, the NRLA stressed that despite the government itself admitting that there could be as many as 10,500 rogue landlords across the rental sector in England alone, a dismal 43 landlords are currently entered on the nation’s database of rogue landlords.

Lending an explanation to the rather vague term, Baroness Williams of Trafford , the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local government stated, “The term ‘rogue landlord’ is widely understood in the lettings industry to describe a landlord who knowingly flouts their obligations by renting out unsafe and substandard accommodation to tenants, many of whom may be vulnerable. The Housing and Planning Bill contains a number of measures to help local authorities crack down on rogue landlord and force them to either improve or leave the sector.”

The new findings references earlier research carried out by the National Residential Landlord’s Association, explaining that over the last decade the amount of statutory previsions applied in England has soured by 40%, now totalling 168 individual pieces of legislation. The NRLA revealed that they conclude the local authorities do not possess the ability to exercise this legislation effectively, and should therefore be the focus of the government reforms. Similarly research conducted by Unchecked UK have found that between 2009 and 2019 the spending dedicated to local authority Environmental Health Officers in England and Wales plummeted by a third. These figures come alongside calls for the government to establish a way in which to provide local authorities with upfront, multiyear funding to handle rogue landlords.

The Chief Executive of the National Residential landlords Association Ben Beadle commented, “We need to address the chronic failure to take action against rogue and criminal landlords. It puts tenants at risk and undermines the reputation of the overwhelming majority of landlords who play by the rules. As Ministers develop their plans for the sector, they need to be clear whether any of what they propose will be properly enforced.”

“More broadly, it is vital that the forthcoming White Paper strikes a fair balance between the needs of both tenants and landlords. It is in that spirit that we continue to work with the Government and others to develop workable policies that protect tenants from bad landlords whilst ensuring good landlords have the confidence to provide the homes to rent the country desperately needs.”

In a document intended to offer guidance to local authorities in tackling rogue landlords released in 2019, the parliamentary under Secretary of State Minister for Housing and Homelessness at the time, Mrs Heather Wheeler MP, commented that, “The government is committed to clamping down on these rogue landlords and forcing them to improve the condition of their properties or leave the sector completely. This is why we have taken some important steps to strengthen the tools local authorities have to keep driving these improvements. We have introduced civil penalties, rent repayment orders, the rogue landlords database, and a mandatory licensing scheme that captures more houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) than ever before.

The Database of Rogue Landlords

As it currently stands local authorities exclusively possess the power to add a landlord to the database of rogue landlords and letting agents. Providing that a local authority has obtained a banning order against a landlord or letting agent they will automatically be entered into the database to avoid putting further tenants in risk or exploiting more renters. The database will include the full name and address of the rogue landlord or letting agent, alongside a comprehensive list of any properties that they owner, let out or managed. Further to this their national insurance number and date of birth will also be recorded. The database will also detail the length of the ban that the landlord or letting agent is currently facing, accompanied by a description of each offence committed to be served the banning order.

Whilst a local authority must make an addition to the database if a landlord is served with a banning order, there are a series of circumstance under which the decision of the rogue landlord or letting agent’s inclusion of the database is discretionary. If the landlord has been found to commit either a banning order offence for which hey have been convicted, or been found to have committed two or more of these offences within a single year then the local authority could add them to the database.  When making such discretionary calls on whether to add a landlord or letting agent to the list local authorities are urged to assess the severity of the offence committed by the landlord, any external factors surrounding the issue alongside the liability of either party in any previous offense committed by the landlord or letting agent.

Can You Withhold Rent From a Rogue Landlord?

It goes without saying that upon the signing of the tenancy agreement and moving into the rental property both the landlord and tenants must uphold a series of rights and responsibilities they have undertaken as part of their legally binding rental contract. Naturally the owner of the rental property must provide the tenants with accommodation that is safe for them to inhabit, attending to any issues regarding it maintenance or repair, whilst also granting the tenants the right to use the rental property without consistent interruption form the landlord, letting agency or their representatives, to mention a few. But as mentioned they are not exclusively obliged to sustain the regulations as the tenant will accept the duty to periodically pay the agreed upon amount of rent.

With this in mind if the occupants of the rental property decide that they are going to stop paying their landlord the agreed upon rent, then this would be considered as a breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement and will likely result in the landlord seeking out repossession of the rental property through an eviction order.

With this being said there are circumstance under which the tenant can withhold some or all of the agreed upon rent, with the landlord being prevented from taking any recourse or retaliatory measures.  As per section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 the owner of the rental property must ensure that they attend to any matters of repair regarding the interior and exterior structure, fixtures and installations over the course of each tenancy. Of course the frustrations of a landlord that is reluctant to carry out repairs is well known and somewhat notorious, however, in the overwhelming majority of tenancies the landlord will carry out these repairs but must be afforded “ reasonable time” to conduct the appropriate work. It is also worth mentioning that although the landlord may conduct inspections of the rental property, the tenant holds the responsibility of altering them to any signs of damage or anything within the rental property that could present a risk to the occupant’s health and safety.

Rather understandably if the tenants have reported the issues and concerns to the landlord and they are neglecting to attend to these matters of repair, I they believe it is unfair that they should continue to meet their obligation to pay rent, especially as the landlord is behaving with similar disregard to the tenancy agreement and the tenant’s rights. However, if the landlord is neglecting to carry out repairs, the occupants of the rental property must follow an exact process in order to withhold their rent and have the repairs carried out.

Firstly the tenant must inform the landlords of the repairs that need carrying out, with this notice being given in writing to allow for transparency and later reference if needed. If after allowing the landlord a reasonable time in which to carry out he repairs the occupants of the rental property have receive no response to their request for repairs, then they should once again address the landlord, this time reminding them of their obligation to attend to the repair of the accommodation. The second time in which the tenant contacts the landlord requesting repairs should also notify the owner of their intentions to carry out the necessary repairs in their stead if they once again do not receive a response. If after allowing the landlord or letting agent further time in which to carry out the remedial work the tenants hare still yet to receive a response they should gather at least three quotes from local workmen to conduct the appropriate repairs.  Copies of each of these estimates should then be sent to the landlord with a further reminder of their obligation to handle such matters and that the tenant will proceed to have the repairs conducted by a specified date, typically around two weeks, with the costs associated with the matter being resolved being deducted from any future rental payments the landlord will receive. Providing that the owner of the rental property has still failed to give the tenant’s a response despite the warning and multiple notices, the tenants can arrange for the workmen that offered them the best quote to carry out the appropriate work.

Once the repairs to the rental property have been completed the occupants must provide their landlord with a copy of the invoice for the work. Alongside the invoice the tenants should also offer the landlord a final chance in which to clear the costs of the remedial work before the costs are deducted from future rental payments. If no response is gained from the owner of the rental property the occupants should detail the period over which the costs of carrying out the repairs will be claimed, ei, how many rental deductions there will be and how much of a deduction will be made from each forth coming rental payment, and then provide this information to the landlord.

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