Oxford City Council has backed proposals to name and shame rogue landlords on a national database.
The proposals, which aim to protect tenants and help improve the standards of rented accomodation, will provide public access to the national Rogue Landlord Database and lower the threshold at which rogue landlords and agents can be added to the list.
Currently, rogue landlords or property agents need to receive two civil penalties from local authorities within a 12 month period to be entered onto the Rogue Landlords Database.
The Government is currently consulting on a range of changes to the database, including making the information publicly available and a proposal to lower the threshold for landlords and agents to be added to the database after receiving just one civil penalty.
The consultation, which members of the public can also respond to, is open until Saturday 12 October.
The City Council – in its response to the Government’s consultation – has also backed plans to force landlords and agents to disclose to current and prospective tenants if they are on the database, and to extend the reasons why landlords can be added to the database.
Currently, the database is only accessible to local authorities – and councils cannot name those on the database or publicise the details of landlords who have received civil penalties.
But, differing from the Government’s proposals, the City Council has suggested that landlords should pay fines from civil penalties before they are removed from the database. The Government’s proposal is that, regardless of whether or not they comply with civil penalties, rogue landlords are removed from the database after 12 months.
The Rogue Landlords Database, which operates across England, was established in 2018 to enable local authorities to keep track of rogue landlords and agents who are renting out unsafe or substandard accommodation across council boundaries.
But the Government is now proposing to expand the database to match legislation in London, where landlords are entered onto the database after receiving a single civil penalty and where members of the public have full access to the database.
Oxford City Council became the third local authority in the country to add a rogue landlord to the national database in April, after a local landlord received two financial penalties for breaching the City Council’s Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) regulations.
The landlord, who lets several properties in Oxford, was fined £25,648 (£12,824 for each property) after inspectors found a defective fire alarm system, inadequate fire doors, and a blocked fire escape. The properties were also in a state of disrepair, with defective door locks, damaged guttering and heavily soiled carpets.
Since the introduction of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 in April 2017, Oxford City Council has issued 53 financial penalties on landlords and agents for offences in the city. This has resulted in fines of £356,411.
If the Government’s proposed changes to the Rogue Landlords Database go ahead, the City Council will be able to add all the landlords and agents issued with financial penalties to the national database.
All HMOs in Oxford must have a licence, and must comply with the HMO regulations. Regulations are in place to protect tenants, including ensuring fire doors and alarms are installed, there are no gas or electrical safety issues, and the property is in good repair.
Anyone who suspects a property may be an HMO without a licence, or is aware of an HMO in disrepair, can report it anonymously to the City Council by visiting: www.oxford.gov.uk/hmo.
To respond to the Government’s consultation on expanding the Rogue Landlords Database, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/rogue-landlord-database-reform.
“We welcome the Government’s proposed improvements to the Rogue Landlords Database, and hope they implement all their current suggestions. More than 30% of Oxford residents rent their house or flat privately and we want to ensure that they live in a safe home.
“Expanding the database will protect tenants and ensure they do not enter into a contract with a criminal landlord or agent, and it will help maintain pressure on landlords to maintain high standards – just as happens currently with restaurants and the food hygiene rating system.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Leisure and Housing