Housing campaigners have welcomed Government plans to open up its “Rogue Landlords Database” to renters.
The register of blacklisted landlords is currently only open to local authorities but Communities Secretary James Brokenshire announced plans on Sunday to give access to prospective tenants.
It is part of a “new deal” package of rent reforms which also includes proposals to end no fault evictions, which the Shelter charity has described as “far and away the most important thing the Government can do” for the sector.
Under the database proposal, tenants would be able to look up landlords and letting agents by name to check their track records.
“This database has the potential to ensure that poor quality homes across the country are improved and the worst landlords are banned, and it is right that we unlock this crucial information for new and prospective tenants,” said Mr Brokenshire.
“Landlords should be in no doubt that they must provide decent homes or face the consequences.”
Responding to the announcement, Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said the database “will offer renters a better chance of protecting themselves and their family”.
“It’s equally encouraging to see further progress being made towards abolishing ‘no fault’ evictions today – which is the only way to make revenge evictions a thing of the past,” she added.
“To ensure everyone reaps the rewards of these proposals, the new Prime Minister must see-through the vital legislation this government has already committed to.”
There are more than 11 million private renters in England across 4.5 million households, according to England Housing Survey figures, and the percentage has doubled since 2002 from 10% to 19%.
The current Rogue Landlords Database went live in April 2018 and includes the most serious and prolific criminals, convicted of banning order offences including failing to make a property habitable, along with serious crimes like drug and sex offences.
A 12-week consultation on the Government’s proposals will also consider widening the scope to take in more housing-related offences, such as breaching the new Tenant Fees Act.
Landlords would be given grounds to reclaim properties when they genuinely need them, such as to sell the home or for a member of their family to move in.
Court processes would also be made smoother, the Government said.
The reforms were announced as figures from the National Housing Federation found for every social house built in England, eight families are accepted as homeless by their local council.
Kate Henderson, the federation’s chief executive, said the “shocking disparity… puts into stark perspective how far away we are from meeting our housing need”.