The department for communities and local government is currently taking views in a survey from anyone who wants to contribute on their definition of banning order offences. The offences would be caused by landlords or letting agents towards their tenants and the banning orders against landlords and letting agents are meant to be used as a last resort where other types of enforcement action have failed.
The worst case scenario is that a letting agent or property manager who has a banning order against them, could find their name on a national database of rogue landlords / property agents. Banning orders can also be introduced for the most serious and prolific offenders. What would the consequences of the banning order be? They are listed succinctly in section 14 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and include:
- Being banned from letting housing in England
- Being banned from engaging in English letting agency work
- Being banned from engaging in English property management work
- Doing two or more of the above
There is more to this and can be viewed in the Government Act.
What are the offences under discussion? A couple of case studies are offered in the survey document. Both are pretty horrific.
In the first one an illegal outbuilding in the rear alleyway of flats and shops identified using street surveys and aerial photography. It was found that a make shift timber roof with no insulation, had been constructed from the back of the shop premises, covering the entire court yard to connect to the garage in the rear alleyway. Internally the building had been partitioned to form 4 small rooms for bed spaces, a shared kitchen and toilet/shower room.
In each bedroom, there were 3-4 single beds crammed together, causing severe overcrowding. One of the bedrooms was situated off the kitchen area, creating no means of escape in the event of a fire. None of the rooms had any fixed heating or ventilation and all had evidence of damp on the walls. Electrical wiring was exposed and excessive use of extensions leads was apparent, with wire flex running across and under the main entrance door leading onto the public footpath. The entrance to the outbuilding was a wood panel door which led to a hallway that was exposed to excessive cold. There was no adequate security and the outbuilding had serious category 1 hazards; no fire protection, no planning permission and did not comply with building or fire safety regulations.
In the second four adjoining properties in a terrace within a residential area, were found to be houses in multiple occupation let on a ‘per bed’ basis. Almost 50 people were living in the four properties with some of the bedrooms having 3 bunk beds occupied at the time of inspection.
All the rooms were over crowded and conditions very poor in terms of sanitary and kitchen facilities available. 3 of the 4 rooms had no form of central heating, the boilers removed and there was no hot water. Occupants were relying on electric heaters plugged into the overloaded sockets, some of which were scorched, along with fridges, toasters, phone chargers and chargers for power tools used during the day. Fire hazards were multiplied by lack of any fire precautions or working detection systems. Kitchen and bathroom facilities were defective, unsanitary and overused.
Our initial response at 2 Rivers to the idea of a banning order against our fellow colleagues in the property management industry seemed harsh and unfair ~ until we read what some tenants are living with. We have completed the survey and supported the idea of a banning database. Landlords and letting agents cannot be allowed to continue treating tenants in such an awful way.
Finally on a positive note, it was reported in the survey document that there are some 4.3 million households in England in the private rented sector. 82% of these are satisfied with their accommodation, and stay in their homes an average of 4 years. It is the 18% who are letting us all down and need to be made accountable for their management practices.