A debate is raging over whether tenants who fail to pay their rent or cause damage should be ‘named and shamed’ in a register of rogue tenants. The idea was mooted in a Spectator blog, by freelance journalist and former Landlord Today editor, Emma Lunn. She compares shoplifting from a supermarket to non-payment of rent. Although they are both theft, one is considered a criminal offence, while the other is a civil matter. As the article points out, if you steal from Tesco, you are likely to be arrested and could end up with a criminal record. If you decide to live in your rental accommodation but not pay rent, landlords have to carry out a long eviction process and attempt to get the money back through the Small Claims Court. Even if a County Court Judgement is given against the tenant, there is still no guarantee that he or she will pay what is owed.
Unfortunately, non-payment of rent is a fairly common occurrence. In the past year, 35% of landlords have experienced rent arrears, whilst 29% had property damaged and 13% had problems with anti-social behaviour, according to the National Landlords Association. Furthermore, 30% of tenants believe it is acceptable to steal from rental properties. A survey by Direct Line for Business revealed some of the most common items that tenants have stolen are fridges, freezers, light fittings and televisions.
So, if the law is not looking favourably on landlords, would a register of rogue tenants help? Ms Lunn puts forward the point that rogue tenants can move from property to property, leaving behind rent arrears and unpaid bills. Even when credit checks are carried out, these do not show if a tenant has paid the rent on time. So should landlords be protected from rogue renters in the same way that the government is protecting tenants from rogue landlords? Tenant referencing reports are available from a number of providers like landlordreferencing.co.uk, but a government-backed scheme would carry more weight, particularly if there was a lot of publicity about it, so tenants were aware of it too.
Certainly, something needs to be done to ensure landlords have confidence in the buy-to-let market. With the UK facing a lack of decent rental properties, particularly in areas of high demand such as London and the South-East, surely steps to help landlords fight bad tenants would be a positive move to encourage investment in this much-needed area?