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, which would professionalise the sector. It would allow the responsible landlords out there to showcase their credentials. They look after their tenants, and their properties are up to standard. And ridding the sector of the criminal and rogue landlords is in everyone’s interest.
What can renters do to demand change?
The government has committed to introducing a new property portal as part of the Renters’ Reform Bill, which private landlords will need to register themselves to and will be used for landlords to keep up to date with their duties and responsibilities. The portal will provide information to tenants about their landlord’s compliance, as well as data for local authorities to help them crack down on criminal landlords.
This will be essential in driving up standards in the private rented sector. But it’s been nearly four years since the government first promised to bring forward the Renters’ Reform Bill, and private renters are still waiting for change – struggling with landlords that break the law and living in properties that do not meet basic safety standards.
We need the government to bring forward the Renters’ Reform Bill now – join our campaign today and demand that the government fixes renting.