In recent editions, Housing Technology has highlighted how the Housing and Planning Bill has major repercussions for how the social housing sector deals with its rogue landlords.
What concerns me is the numbers; 16 per cent of privately rented homes are unsafe*. That’s around 740,000 people in the UK living in properties which may have been identified as illegal conversions, being overcrowded or where the landlord has disregarded fire safety regulations. Compounding the problem of identifying and tracking the perpetrators is the fact that current enforcement and prosecution information is often being stored within disparate systems and left untracked, meaning it easily becomes too unwieldy to manage.
We therefore applaud the provision within the Housing and Planning Bill that directs local authorities to establish and maintain a database of rogue landlords and property agents, and requires them to submit this intelligence at a national level. Rogue landlords need to be alerted to an authority at the earliest opportunity.
Taking it a step further though, why not have a joined-up central service for all authorities to access? A shared resource to provide early alerts to local authorities of rogue landlords, enable the promotion of good practice among private landlords, identify the best providers and make it all public.
You won’t be surprised to hear it from a software provider but technology can make it happen. However, it does rely on the total being greater than the sum of its parts, meaning that local authorities need to see the value, buy into the concept and actively participate.
It is therefore encouraging to see some councils already taking a proactive approach. We’re very pleased with how Capita’s web-based application, Advantage Impact, has been received. It allows organisations to share and track full investigation and case management details, multiple-accommodation information and appeals information, as well as the recording and management of bans, sanctions and complaints. Landlords and letting agents can also be registered and published by local authorities, making it both easier for tenants to identify the best providers and for local authorities to report on rogue landlords. It’s one solution where, when many local authorities get involved, a real benefit can be realised by the housing sector.
Roger Birkinshaw is the housing director for Capita Software Services.
* According to research by the Citizens Advice Bureau.