People searching for somewhere to rent often ask our advisers why there isn’t a way to check whether potential landlords are law-abiding and up to the job. It’s a good question. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have a landlord register. England is currently the only nation in the UK without one.
Picture how it feels when you need somewhere to live urgently. Finding a home becomes your entire focus. You’re desperate to find somewhere to live, but the current system means you can’t even make an informed choice about the home you’re trying to find.
Potential renters hand over money – a holding and/or security deposit or rent in advance – without knowing how the landlord will behave during the tenancy or if the property is safe to live in.
Have you ever turned on the shower at a viewing? Tested the washing machine? Asked the landlord for a reference? Me neither. Most people are desperate to get the rental and feel weak with relief that it’s not awful while praying they might just be at the top of the queue.
A landlord register will give tenants peace of mind and much needed rights
With a public register of landlords, people could enter into a tenancy agreement knowing about who they will be paying rent to and who they’ll be trusting to follow the law.
They will also know that their landlord has had to prove they’re a fit and proper person, and that their properties meet all legal requirements.
From time to time, we hear horror stories from people who call us for support, who have been scammed by fake landlords advertising non-existent properties. These people take advantage of desperation – taking money, peace of mind and often damage the mental health of the people they exploit. And a stolen deposit and rent in advance can lead directly to homelessness.
What would a landlord register look like?
A landlord register needs to be a centralised database with information on landlords, properties and rent charges.
Renters would be able to check who their landlord is and whether they’ve had any enforcement action taken out against them. And local authorities would be able to crack down on landlords who weren’t doing their jobs properly.
A comprehensive landlord register could mean tenants get a heads up about the landlord’s behaviour when they rent. Do they have a history of protecting deposits? Do they know not to turn up unannounced, make the rent unaffordable, evict people illegally?
It would also help overstretched local councils, which provide the safety net for our broken renting system. Right now, they must step in when private renting fails to protect renters who are unfairly evicted from their homes or living in dangerous conditions. This is made even more difficult because there is no National Landlord Register.
A register would help councils identify the bad landlords and enforce renters’ rights. It would also help them to locate landlords, as often it can take months for them to be able to establish who is responsible for properties. It would also help Local Authorities to enforce against landlords who operate in more than one area, and would also stop criminal landlords from simply moving to a new area and starting up again.
Why should landlords back a register?
Landlords have told us before that they see the value in a register. It would allow the responsible landlords out there to showcase their credentials. They look after their tenants, protect them. And ridding the sector of the criminals and rogues that give landlords a bad name is in everyone’s interest.
What can renters do to tell the government we need a Landlord Register?
The government has already said that a National Landlord Register could be included in the Renters’ Reform Bill. But right now, we have an opportunity to convince them that they should make it the law.
Last week they opened a consultation, for renters, on a National Landlord Register. But we only have until 17 November to make our voices count. The results from this survey will go straight to government ministers who are making the laws, so it’s really important that as many renters as possible take part.
Will you make your voice heard? Fill in the survey, it only takes 5 minutes.