ARLA Propertymark, of which More – The Letting Centre are members, has recently responded to the Government’s consultation on what offences will constitute a banning order under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
We are pleased that the Government has consulted on banning orders in order to clarify what these offences will include, but we are concerned about the openness of the register and believe that being banned under Estate Agents Act 1979 should also constitute a banning order offence under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
In relation to the register, it seems completely illogical and defeats the purpose of the legislation that the database of rogue landlords and letting agents will only be accessible to local authorities and the Department for communities and Local Government. If there is no public access to the database how will landlords or tenants know if they are using a banned agent and how do agents see if those applying for employment are blacklisted or banned.
Furthermore, we believe that access to the list should be granted to industry bodies such as ARLA Propertymark. As the largest professional body for letting agents in the UK unless we are included we will not know if our members are banned or blacklisted. Additionally, access to the register will allow us to ensure we can take the appropriate action against any member on the list.
Many letting agents are also sales agents and therefore regulated under the Estate Agents Act 1979. Consequently, we believe that being banned under Estate Agents Act 1979 should also constitute a banning order offence under the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Without combining the lists, there is a very real danger that a banned sales agent could set up as a letting agent or vice versa which will do little to improve the industry.
On the whole ARLA Propertymark agrees with the housing offences that have been set out by the Government which should be regarded as banning order offences. We have, however, recommended to the Government that they also consider including letting agents who do not display their fees in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and agencies who are not members of a redress scheme under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 as banning order offences.
In addition, on the offence for allowing a HMO that is not subject to licensing to become overcrowded we believe there must be safeguards in place against prosecution when tenants overcrowd without consent or knowledge of the landlord.