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Failure of licensing system allows rogue landlords to ‘operate with impunity’

The government’s attempts to clampdown on rogue landlords have been branded ‘weak and pathetic’, partly due to the vast and complex rules that are creating a confusing landscape.

A Guardian and ITV News investigation found convicted landlords who failed to pass the “fit and proper” person tests, required by housing legislation in England and Wales, continue to operate by exploiting loopholes in the law that is supposed to protect the most vulnerable tenants.

The exposé also discovered that local authorities have failed to make a single entry on to the central government’s new rogue landlord database in the six months since its launch.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, said: “It is clear from this investigation that this legislation is too weak and is not being properly enforced. There’s no justification for treating rogue landlords more lightly than other people who break the law.”

Labour’s David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, said on Twitter: “This is pathetic. The government’s new rogue landlord database has failed to log a single entry. And its secrecy means that even if it had logged offenders, tenants would not know. Action and transparency is needed.”

Reflecting on the Guardian and ITV’s investigation into rogue landlords and the failure of the government’s landlords licensing system, Tom Mundy, co-founder and COO of proptech company Goodlord, believes that part of the problem is that the private rented sector has been slow to embrace technology.

He commented: “This investigation has highlighted how rogue landlords can often operate with impunity. They can be caught exploiting their tenants but simply move on to another location and repeat their actions.

“It showcases how parts of the rental sector lack transparency and accountability. Much of this has to do with the fact that the sector as a whole has been slow to embrace new technology and useless government initiatives have been ineffective at creating a fair industry."

“We need to ask the question how can we create a digital history of tenants and landlords so that we provide a safer more transparent industry for us all.

“Generation Rent is here and we need to be ready for it. Current government licensing systems need to be redesigned to encourage more honest landlords rather than scaring them off and leaving us with the ones who know how to exploit the system.”

Mundy pointed out that there are various systems now available that digitise the landlord-tenant relationship, providing security for both parties and with the added benefit of being much more efficient and cost-effective.

He added: “Tenants can protect themselves by seeking out landlords and estate agents that have adopted this type of technology.

“Not only is it a good indication that the landlord has nothing to hide and is professional, but it can also provide a secure digital trail of contractual terms and documentation. This can be invaluable if disputes arise regarding the return of a deposit or notice periods.”

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