Most landlords are good, committed people. They’re as honest as the day is long, as transparent as the air we breathe, and they take their responsibilities very seriously.
Unfortunately, however, in every industry there’s a mischievous minority that poop the party - and the private rented sector is no different. These malevolent miscreants pull the wool over agents’ eyes, exploit unsuspecting tenants, and disappear without a trace when challenged.
We’re talking, of course, about rogue landlords.
It’s not just a London problem - upstanding landlords and letting agents across the nation hold rogue landlords in disdain. Renting residents who are being taken advantage of should get in touch with the council, and a banning order can be issued to red-handed rogues. But how can you spot a rogue landlord before it’s too late?
Just Move In - your crime-busting, rogue-spotting, home setup specialist - is here to help. We’ll talk you through what a rogue landlord looks like, five warning signs to ignore at your peril, and what to do if you need more guidance. Cue crime-fighting music.
What are rogue landlords?
The bane of the lettings sector, rogue landlords are property owners who knowingly flout the law, refuse to repair housing problems, and don’t care what their tenants endure - just as long as the rent keeps rolling in.
They’re bad for your customers, bad for your reputation, and terrible for your bottom line, too. Just think how much time you’ll spend clearing up their mess.
The typical dastardly behaviour of a rogue landlord might include:
- Refusing to carry out necessary repairs and maintenance
- Evicting tenants without legal grounds to do so
- Renting without a licence, or renting unsuitable property
- Jacking-up the rent halfway through a tenancy
- Failing to protect the tenant’s deposit
- Harassing tenants or entering the property uninvited
To help combat the rise of rogue landlords, 2018 saw banning orders rolled out in the UK. A banning order is a document issued by the council that prohibits a person from renting a property. Good news. But, only the council can make an application for a banning order. To apply for a banning order, the local authority must contact the First-Tier Tribunal after a landlord has been convicted of a relevant offence.
5 telltale signs of a rogue landlord
Like most moustache-twirling villains, rogue landlords tend to follow a pattern of fiendish behaviour. Often, you’ll find them difficult to deal with, and their properties in a poor state of repair. That’s bad news for your customers, who will be renting substandard or possibly dangerous accommodation, and bad news for you, too, since it can hurt your reputation as well as your profit margin.
Below, we’ve set out the 5 key signs to take heed of:
1. Their property isn’t well maintained
One of the chief responsibilities of a landlord is to keep the property in a decent state of repair. Alright, no one’s expecting Windsor Castle, but tenants have the right to expect a liveable standard. So a shabby home with tatty carpets, a dated kitchen, and walls that haven’t seen a lick of paint since Vera Lynn was a wee lass should definitely set your alarm bells ringing. After all, if you can see loads of obvious flaws then just imagine what nastiness lies below the surface. Those wardrobes are probably full of damp.
The truth is that an unclean or poorly maintained home is a telltale sign that a landlord simply doesn’t care. The best landlords are houseproud. They look after their property and make sure it’s in decent knick. Rogue landlords, on the other hand, don’t give two kicks about the state of the property. The only pride they feel is when the money keeps flowing, while they sit back and let people suffer.
2. They don’t care about inventories
An inventory is a crucial part of any tenancy agreement. After all, it records the condition of a property (and the state of its appliances and fittings) when the tenancy begins. Basically, a good inventory is a minimum requirement of a good landlord and if they don't seem particularly fussed, be aware that you’re probably dealing with a scoundrel. Often, lack of an accurate inventory means they’ll try to charge tenants unfairly for missing items and wear and tear later on.
A blasé attitude to inventories also shows that the landlord either doesn’t care or doesn’t understand how tenancies work. Moreover, it indicates that they don’t want you to take a closer look at the property. Trying to gloss over details like broken fittings, dirty cupboards or faulty appliances screams “rogue landlord” at 100 decibels.
3. Protecting deposits is an inconvenience
Protecting a tenant’s deposit is another of the most fundamental landlord responsibilities. It’s the law. What’s more, the deposit must be protected in one of the UK’s government-approved schemes and confirmed (with evidence) within 30 days at the start of a tenancy. Failure to do so means the council can issue civil penalties.
If your landlord tries to shirk this responsibility or has a casual attitude about it, it’s time to start worrying. Don’t let them fob you off - this stuff is important. In fact, it’s essential. When your landlord is not showing the necessary level of respect and consideration to the tenant’s deposit, contact the local authorities. If they’re trying to avoid this most basic duty then you can imagine their attitude to other legal obligations, maintenance and repairs. It won’t be good.
4. Health and what?
If your landlord cares about health and safety as much as England fans care for penalty shoot-outs, it’s safe to say that working with them could be a terrible own-goal. There’s simply no excuse for sidestepping the law. An attitude that endangers the wellbeing of tenants is a criminal offence and a massive red flag with the words 'CONTACT LOCAL AUTHORITIES' printed on it. In bold type.
Letting agents know all too well that landlords need to arrange gas and electrical safety certificates. So if your landlord thinks annual gas checks are ‘overkill’, or doesn’t believe in organising electrical checks every five years, then they probably don’t believe in tenant welfare, either. The best thing for them is an Improvement Notice (a court-ordered directive to improve health and safety standards) and a long look in the mirror. Avoid this rogue landlord like the plague.
5. Something just doesn’t seem right
You know the phrase, ‘trust your gut’? It applies to rogue landlords. Property managers should make the renting process as smooth as possible so if you’re picking up bad vibes, listen to them. If the landlord doesn't like answering their phone, doesn't look you in the eye, goes mysteriously missing, changes the subject when you ask important questions, and always needs reminding about important procedures then it’s time to run for the hills.
Of course, the signs above don’t always mean that you’re dealing with a rogue. Someone might be difficult to get hold of for very good reasons. However, missing one call is a very different situation to blatantly avoiding conversations about a broken window. If your landlord does some (or all) of the things we’ve mentioned above, then it’s quite likely that he or she is a rascal.
What to do when private landlords go rogue
Here’s what to do if you’ve got suspicions about a landlord. The first step is to see if they’re a member of a recognised body like the National Landlords Association. Members of these organisations are obliged to understand and follow the rules.
You should also do some digging. A good landlord will be only too happy for you to speak to past tenants. These tenants may even provide a reference for you. It’s also prudent to check the government’s database of rogue landlords in your area. Many local councils now keep track of rogues who have been fined or convicted of a housing offence like failing to carry out essential repairs.
It’s worth checking out sites like Marks Out Of Tenancy, one of the few sites where tenants can actually review landlords, and report foul play, in a more accessible format. Bad feedback could mean you’re dealing with a bad egg.
Finally, spotting a rogue landlord should become much easier in future if (or when) the government introduces a new National Landlord Register in England. This would require all landlords, and all rental properties, to be officially registered. Local authorities can also utilise modern assistive technology systems to root out the rogues.
At the moment, just 7% of private rented properties are covered by the various schemes out there. So, it’s easy for slippery landlords to wriggle through the net. Until the new register is established, however, you’ll have to rely on your smarts and intuition. So share this post and don’t let the wrongdoers keep wronging your tenants.
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