John Heron, managing director of mortgages at Paragon

Why lenders need access to the rogue landlord database

As a buy-to-let lender, Paragon is a strong supporter of the government's initiative to establish a rogue landlord database.

The government introduced the rogue landlord database in April 2018 under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 so that local authorities could share information on banned landlords and letting agencies. The database includes the names of offenders and details of their banning orders.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcement and can only apply for a banning order where a landlord has already been found guilty of at least one of a prescribed list of infractions. 

A banning order needs to be granted by a first-tier tribunal and landlords have the right to make representations. However, if granted, a banning order must be for a minimum of 12 months. There is no statutory maximum and a breach of a banning order is a criminal offence.

A wide range of infractions can lead to a banning order. These include licence failures, unlawful evictions, gas safety offences and failure to act on an improvement notice. What’s more, a recently completed consultation includes plans to extend the list to take in overcrowding, failure to provide an Energy Performance Certificate and unlawful tenant fees, making it clear that the government means business.

While the database will take time to establish and local authorities may need extra resources for effective enforcement, it will undoubtedly become a valuable resource as it grows. 

The UK relies on a strong and vibrant private rented sector (PRS). Population growth and demographic changes, coupled with limited investment in social housing and tighter mortgage affordability, have fuelled structural change in the UK housing market, expanding the PRS population to 4.5 million by 2017/18. 

Every one of these PRS households needs a safe, secure and decent home provided by a fit and proper landlord. 

The government’s recent consultation also includes plans to give current and prospective tenants the opportunity to view information on the database to help them make an informed choice on who to rent from. 

Broadening access to lenders for underwriting purposes would be another important step forward. 

Great progress has been made by the industry since the introduction of the PRA guidelines for underwriting more complex portfolio buy-to-let. Lenders are looking well beyond the property in question at the wider profile of the landlord and their property holdings. In this process, lenders have significant social responsibilities to address to ensure that we support landlords who provide safe and good quality homes for their tenants. 

It is in no one’s interest to let unfit landlords operate in the UK’s PRS, and by granting lenders access to the rouge landlord database, lenders can fulfil a vital function in making sure rogue landlords are starved of the oxygen of finance.

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