Lettings industry 'blacklist database' is welcome step

Lettings industry 'blacklist database' is welcome step

According to PayProp, the introduction of a database or 'blacklist' of individuals banned from working in the lettings market, which became operational on October 1, is a positive step forward for the industry.

The list will complement increased regulation, comprehensive redress, secure and transparent PropTech, higher industry standards and greater competition to improve transparency in lettings.

However, the company says, as one initiative among many, it has a long way to go and there is still much work to be done to improve transparency and stamp out the minority of criminal operators still working in the sector.

Record of offenders

Neil Cobbold, Chief Operating Officer of PayProp in the UK, said: "It's been a long time in the making, but we hope that this new development will help local authorities keep track of those acting unlawfully in the private rented sector.

Provided there are the resources available to manage and maintain the database, it could prove a valuable tool in protecting tenants from sub-standard rental accommodation and criminal operators."

Officially introduced earlier this month, the blacklist will give local authorities the opportunity to keep a record of people who have been convicted of housing offences in England.

Landlords and agents can be added to the list if they have received a financial penalty in relation to a banning order offence two or more times within a 12-month period.

Each entry must be maintained for the period during which the banning order takes effect before being removed.

Decision to keep database private remains controversial

The database has been introduced as part of the Housing and Planning Bill 2016 - which also includes measures for banning orders and rent repayment orders.

One of the main controversies surrounding introduction of the blacklist is that it will only be accessible to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and local authorities.

This move has been criticised by a number of trade bodies, who say tenants, landlords and letting agents should all be allowed to check the list for a variety of different reasons.

London leading the way

A similar but separate initiative is due to be introduced in the capital this autumn by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Khan is planning to publish a database on his website which names and shames prosecuted landlords and letting agents.

It is being developed in partnership with local authorities and will initially include information from Newham, Brent, Camden, Southwark, Kingston and Sutton councils.

Neil adds: "It's interesting to see that London is introducing its own database of criminals and it may have a greater chance of success due to being accessible to all parties.

In the future, there could be potential for it to merge with the national database and for all the information to be made available for public use."

Transparency through payments

PayProp explains that automating rental payment and reconciliation processes can also contribute towards improving transparency in the lettings industry.

Managing payments digitally can help letting agents to easily track and trace all activity, while also providing them with a platform to improve their record keeping and communications with landlords and tenants.

"Increased regulation, redress, PropTech and high industry standards and competition are all combining to improve transparency in the lettings sector as we move closer towards ridding the industry of the minority of criminal operators,” Cobbold concludes.

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