Confusion reigns over UK private landlord registers

Nia Williams

August 11, 2009

Currently, each of the four countries within the UK is adopting a widely different approach to whether landlords should or should not be on a central database.

ENGLAND: the Government is proposing a national register of English landlords which would include not only their names and addresses but also the addresses of their rental properties. Run by an independent organisation, landlords (or their agents) would have to register every year. In return, landlords would receive a unique landlord registration number to be used in tenancy agreements, court proceedings including eviction, and benefit claims.

SCOTLAND: every council in Scotland already holds a register of landlords and letting agents. If they have not registered, or applied for registration, it is a criminal offence. Since its introduction in 2006 there have been calls for the scheme to be reviewed as 25% of rental properties are not registered.* Landlord registration has failed to have sufficient teeth to deal with rogue landlords who have failed to register.

NORTHERN IRELAND: the Executive has stated clearly that mandatory registration of landlords “would put an unnecessary and unfair focus on those landlords who are already complying with legislation and acting responsibly. It would not provide the most effective means of targeting those landlords who are not complying with current law, particularly those who are unaware of, or who deliberately decide to operate outside the law.” ** In other words, there will be no register in Northern Ireland.

WALES: the Assembly Government has no immediate plans of its own to introduce any type of landlord register. However, it is possible that if legislation is introduced at Westminster, it could be extended to include all Welsh landlords.

David Salusbury, Chairman, NLA, commenting on the different national approaches, said:

“The question for decision makers now seems to be: are landlord registers going to stop rogue landlords from taking advantage of tenants and bringing the private-rented sector into disrepute? There are diverse answers from the various parts of the UK.

“The NLA has argued for many years that more targeted action, including more effective use by local authorities of existing enforcement powers, is needed to find and successfully prosecute those landlords who continue to flout the regulations governing the letting of private residential property. The Government has now got to be very careful not to penalise good landlords who are already complying with the law.”

The NLA has recently made its submission to the Government about the proposed register in England. It does not favour registration of landlords, which would not help to drive out the rogue operators. Resources would be more effectively used implementing and enforcing existing regulation. In addition, the NLA believes the information required for any registration should be kept to an absolute minimum to maximise security and accuracy, with access to stored data tightly controlled. Furthermore, any register should assist in the ongoing enforcement activity of local authorities on a case-by-case basis and not operate as an additional arm of regulation.

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