Mandatory landlord registration was introduced in 2004 and it is regarded as having played an important role in helping to improve standards for over 770,000 people who rely on the private rented sector to provide them with a home.
However, according to Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government and Housing, evidence suggests that the current application process is not robust enough to ensure that all landlords understand and comply with their legal responsibilities.
‘The consultation therefore seeks views on proposals to ask for additional information about compliance with legal duties relating to letting houses and on increasing application fees,’ he said.
‘Landlord registration application fees have not increased since 2006, and so they do not reflect the additional work or increased costs to local authorities of administering landlord registration within an expanding private rented sector. The consultation also seeks views on amending the current fee structure to ensure that fees are proportionate and reasonable to the authorisation process undertaken by local authorities,’ he added.
Stewart explained that the proposals are intended to strengthen the system of landlord registration in a proportionate way that will help to ensure that homes rented to private rented sector tenants are of good quality and are managed professionally.
‘Responses to the consultation will help to shape changes to the application process that will require landlords to demonstrate that they meet their legal responsibilities. They will also inform amendments to the way that fees are charged so that local authorities have enough resources to make informed decisions about who can be approved to operate as a landlord,’ Stewart pointed out.
For most landlords, the application fee consists of a principal fee of £55 and a property fee of £11 for each property being let. The principal application fee is paid when a new and renewal application for registration is submitted to the local authority. The proposal is to increase the principal fee to £70 and the property fee to £14. The 10% discount for paying online would continue.
While most landlords behave responsibly and want to provide good quality homes and services to their tenants, it is though that any failure to comply with the legal duties related to letting houses may well be due to a genuine lack of awareness of what it means to be a landlord rather than a deliberate avoidance of the law.
For example, property condition is an area where many landlords fail to meet the legal requirements, and about which tenants have most complaints. A minority of landlords also deliberately choose to operate outside the law, by providing poor quality services and accommodation, often to vulnerable people.
Landlords who apply for registration are required to make a general declaration that they meet the legal duties for letting houses. ‘However, the evidence suggests that this is not enough to ensure that they do understand and comply with their responsibilities,’ the consultation document says.
The consultation therefore includes proposals to ask for additional information about compliance with legal duties relating to letting houses, when a person applies for registration, renews registration and adds a property to an existing registration.
The aim is to raise awareness about landlord responsibilities, identify where further advice or support may be required, provide better information for local authorities to carry out the fit and proper person test and to improve confidence that anyone who is approved and entered onto the register is a suitable person to let houses. Other amendments are also proposed, to simplify the application process.