Unfit landlords can exploit loopholes in housing legislation

Some irresponsible landlords are reportedly taking advantage of loopholes in the law to continue to rent properties even after they have been found unfit to do so. This article looks at these so-called loopholes and asks what tenants can do to protect themselves against rogue landlords.

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The current law

There is legislation that covers the requirements relating to both landlords and tenants. When it comes to landlords, rules cover such issues as property standards and rent. Landlords who rent property known as ‘houses in multiple occupation’ (HMOs), must apply for a licence through the local authority. As part of the licensing application, there is what is called the ‘fit and proper’ person test. This test is aimed at ensuring only responsible people become landlords and collect rent. It does this by ascertaining certain factors, including whether the applicant has previously breached housing or landlord and tenant law.

However, a recent investigation by ITV News and The Guardian reportedly found that there is a loophole in these rules that allows an applicant who has been found unfit in one London borough to continue to rent properties in another borough. They can also reportedly continue to rent properties in the original borough if they go through a third party that has been approved.

What protection is available for tenants?

The government has introduced measures that aim to clamp down on ‘rogue’ landlords. These include establishing a database of irresponsible landlords. Local authorities are also empowered to impose fines and banning orders on landlords who are not treating their tenants fairly or keeping their properties up to standard.

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However, prospective tenants should still take steps to ensure the property they rent offers a comfortable and safe environment with a landlord who is fair and responsible. One way to do this is by finding a property through one of the legitimate Bath letting agents, such as pritchards-bath.co.uk, who offer a professional service. It is advisable to ask if the agent has signed up to The Property Ombudsman, which is a sign that they take their responsibilities to tenants seriously.

Unfortunately, there will always be a small minority of landlords who choose to treat their rent-paying tenants unfairly. While the law provides some protection, tenants must remain vigilant and only rent property through reputable letting agents who work on behalf of responsible landlords.

Richard Anderson


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