Rogue landlords are generally in the news as they are causing a number of issues in the private rental sector. However, this week we have seen even more reports than usual on rogue landlords as political leaders are discussing what changes they would implement if they came into power after the General Election. Here, PropertyQuoteDirect looks at the reasons why rogue landlords have been back in the news this week and what this means for the private rental sector:
Deposit Protection Schemes
It has recently been revealed that there is a loophole in the government’s deposit protection scheme which enables rogue landlords to take advantage of tenants and their deposits. As of the 6th of April 2007 landlords have been legally required to register their tenants’ deposits in a government approved deposit protection scheme. Unfortunately, landlords and letting agents who do not adhere to the rules set out by their deposit protection scheme can be expelled, leaving their tenants’ deposits unprotected. There have already been cases where letting agents have stolen thousands of pounds worth of tenants’ deposits and the tenants have been able to launch disputes against them as they have been expelled from their deposit protection schemes.
Discussing the issue, Generation Rent spokesperson Alex Hilton said: “More than two-thirds of renters have no choice but to rent privately, which means they are easy prey for unscrupulous landlords and letting agents who enjoy Wild West levels of regulation. What regulation there is now appears to be flawed. The nine million people living in the private rented sector deserve a market that works for them, instead of exploiting them.” It is expected for the government to bring in new rules concerning deposit protection schemes which will close the current loophole.
Due to the current housing crisis landlords who leave their properties unoccupied are often criticised as there needs to be as many properties as possible on the market right now in order to meet demand. This is why Stoke-on-Trent city council recently offered the landlords of ten properties that have been unoccupied for over six months £20,000 each to get them back into a habitable state and on the market. The landlords will be able to borrow the money – which is provided by taxpayers – against the equity in their properties, however those that fail to do so could face enforcement action or even have their properties seized.
Councillor Joy Garner, cabinet member for housing, said: “Leaving a habitable home to fall into disrepair is the last thing we want and should be the last thing any owner or private landlord wants. Instead of generating a useful income, an empty home is not only losing money but may also be amassing substantial debts. Some homes will need work to bring them up to the right standard, which owners may struggle to afford. But we can help them secure finance to get this done and transform their property from a liability into an asset. The improvements are going to bring much-needed stability to these communities and make them more attractive.”
Beds in Sheds
One of the worst offences carried out by rogue landlords is letting out properties that are unfit for habitation and in some cases are extremely dangerous. There has been an epidemic of ‘beds in sheds’ recently where rogue landlords let outbuildings such as garages and sheds to those that are struggling to afford current rent prices. These ‘properties’ often don’t have the required facilities or safety features to be let out legally, such as bathrooms, kitchens or even fire alarms. Furthermore, rogue landlords tend to let these properties out to too many people and threaten to evict them without notice if they complain.
In order to fix the issue town hall chiefs are urging magistrates to use their powers to issue harsher punishments to rogue landlords. At the moment, the amount each rogue landlord is fined is paltry compared to the money they make letting beds in sheds, especially as they don’t have landlord insurance or pay for maintenance, which means it does little to deter them. However, magistrates may soon be allowed to fine rogue landlords and unlimited amount meaning that in the future we should see less beds and sheds.