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Landmark decision will help councils

Tom Wall22/04/2015 - 13:00

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Renters currently cannot check their landlords
Renters currently cannot check their landlords

Housing experts and tenant groups have welcomed the release of a criminal landlords database after EHN successfully appealed against a decision by the Information Commissioner.

Alex Hilton, director Generation Rent, told EHN the tribunal decision was a ‘huge victory for renters’ and councils as they currently have no way of knowing if their landlord has been convicted under the Housing Act.

‘The information will be of great value for local authorities who will now be able to identify offenders who have been prosecuted in other jurisdictions, while tenants will have the ability to do some basic background checks on potential landlords.’

He applauded EHN’s ‘tenacity in pursuing the case without any legal assistance’ but said it should not have taken a year to obtain the database.

‘The resistance that EHN faced from the government is astonishing when you consider that it was essentially prioritising the interests of criminals – whose cases are already a matter of public record - above enforcing the law and protecting vulnerable tenants from exploitation,’ he said.

Bob Mayho, CIEH policy officer, said the data would aid council keen to crack down on rouge landlords.

‘This long overdue judgment will mean local housing authorities will be in a much better position to assess whether someone is a fit and proper person to be a landlord. Making such an assessment has hitherto been a real challenge for councils. It will also be of great assistance to the increasing number of local housing authorities that have landlord licensing schemes or are considering introducing them; hopefully the judgment will help to improve the lives of tenants living in some of the worst rented properties as well.’

Housing consultant Stephen Battersby, who helped draw up the health and safety standards in the Housing Act, told EHN it was a ‘significant decision’.

‘It should help local authorities and tenants, at least those tenants or potential tenants who have a choice on accommodation. It should also help local authorities, at least in part, when deciding whether someone is fit and proper under the licensing regime,’ he said.

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