England: MPs introduce measures to crack down on criminal landlords

Dame Angela Watkinson
Dame Angela Watkinson

Two pieces of legislation that will make it easier for authorities to identify criminal landlords in England were introduced by MPs yesterday.

If passed, the first measure introduced to parliament by the Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminister, Dame Angela Watkinson, would require tenants to provide details of their landlord on council tax registration forms.

Under the current law, when new occupants move into a house they are obliged to notify their local authority to establish council tax payments. Nowhere on the form does it ask the tenure of the property or, where it is rented, who the landlord is and what their contact details are.

The Draft Local Government Finance (Tenure Information) Bill would enable councils to request details of a property’s tenure and details of the landlord, if a rented property, on council tax registration forms. Tenants are already legally entitled to know the name of the landlord when signing a new tenancy agreement. Through tenants disclosing this to the local authority, it will make it much more difficult for criminal landlords to avoid being identified.

Where a tenant is unable to identify their landlord this would provide local authorities with a signal that there may be deliberate evasion and they will be able take appropriate action through identifying the owner of the property through the Land Registry.

The requirement was a key proposal made by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) in its manifesto for the private rented sector and it is calling on the UK government and MPs to support this measure.

Dame Angela Watkinson MP said that “the draft Bill has already been welcomed by the Citizens Advice Bureau and has cross Party support”.

Alan Ward, chairman of the RLA, said he “welcomes and strongly supports” Dame Angela’s bill.

He added: “This bill sends a powerful message to criminal landlords that you can run but you cannot hide.

“For too long, a minority of landlords, operating under the radar, have been able to cause misery for their tenants and have been left unchecked by local authorities whose resources are too stretched.

“It will be more effective than a landlord register, or licensing, in identifying rented properties.”

Karen Buck MP
Karen Buck MP

Meanwhile Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, has introduced a bill entitled Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation).

The bill is “to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation; and for connected purposes”.

Betsy Dillner, director of Generation Rent, said: “Private renting has doubled in the past decade but legislation has not caught up with reality. Millions of people face the prospect of renting privately their whole life, but they have very little protection from unscrupulous landlords and agents letting out substandard homes. Karen Buck is a tireless campaigner on housing and understands what needs to change for private renters. She has our full support and we hope her bill will finally bring private renting into the 21st century.”

The first reading stage of a bill is formal, with no debate. After first reading the bills will then be considered on sitting Fridays. Time for debating private members’ bills is limited to 13 Fridays in each session of Parliament.



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