A National Landlord Register Coming to England – What We Know So Far
by Property Investments UKThe Property Investments UK editorial team have been researching and writing about the UK's property market for more than a decade.
The setting up of a national landlord register is a subject which is often in the property news at the moment. In this article, we will look at what we know so far about the creation of a national landlord register.
- The Current Situation
- What Are the Plans For A National Landlord Register?
- The Pros and Cons
- What We Know So Far
- What Information Would A Register Contain?
- How Do National Landlord Registers Work?
- When Will There Be A National Landlord Register?
The Current Situation
The most important thing to know about a national landlord register is that there isn’t one at the moment – at least not in England. Landlords in England do not need to register themselves or their properties in most cases.
There is an exception: Landlords of HMOs or houses in multiple occupation do need to register themselves and their properties on their local authority’s HMO register. The register is open for public inspection. This register operates on an area-by-area basis though, and is not a national landlord register as such.
Other countries within the UK do have their own national landlord registers. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have national landlord registers covering their own respective countries.
What Are the Plans For A National Landlord Register?
There have been calls from some parties for a national landlord register to be introduced in England, but very little has happened to date.
However, in 2022 the government published a white paper – A Fairer Private Rented Sector – which suggested that a Property Portal, which might be a kind of national landlord register, could be set up in England. Earlier in 2023 a new bill – the Renters (Reform) Bill – took the possibility of the creation of a national landlord register a step further.
The Renters (Reform) Bill proposes the creation of a new government-operated Private Rented Sector Database which will support a new digital Property Portal. Under this proposal landlords will be required to sign up and register all properties they let out or intend to let out.
It’s important to note that the Renters (Reform) Bill is not law as yet.
Access our selection of exclusive, high-yielding, off-market property deals and a personal consultant to guide you through your options.
The Pros and Cons
Would a national landlord register be a good idea? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of a national landlord register:
Benefits to tenants. Tenants could find a national landlord register useful when looking for a new home to rent. Tenants would be able to check whether their prospective landlord complies with all the relevant rules and regulations, or perhaps if they are in breach of any of them.
Better control of bad landlords. A national landlord register could make it easier to ban rogue landlords, as they could be removed from the register. It could also help to prevent those who are not fit and proper people to be landlords from becoming landlords in the first place.
Reduction in landlord scams. Landlords scams, where criminals advertise a property to let that does not exist and then take fees or deposits from applicants, have occurred in recent years. A national landlord register would make it harder to operate these scams.
Benefits to landlords. Although some landlords may not welcome the introduction of a national landlord register it might actually be welcomed by some. A national landlord register could allow good landlords to show that they comply with all the rules and regulations. Landlords may even find new tenants as a result of being listed in the register.
An aid to enforcement. Public bodies would be able to use a national landlord register to aid their enforcement activities. A register is likely to identify who legally owns and who is responsible for each rental property.
Local councils would be able to use the register to enforce HMO licensing, planning rules and the possible introduction of the Decent Homes Standard in private rentals.
Tax authorities would be able to use a national landlord register to check tax compliance.
Raising standards in the PRS. Landlords who are part of a national landlord register may need to abide by a code of practice in order to maintain their registration. This could help raise standards in the private rented sector.
The cost of a national landlord register. Setting up and running a national landlord register would require government funding. Landlords would almost certainly need to pay to be listed on a national landlord register. This cost could indirectly add to the rent tenants have to pay. Penalties and fines levied on landlords could raise revenue, however.
Impact on the private rented sector. The extra work and cost involved with complying with a national landlord register could encourage some landlords to sell their rental properties and discourage others from investing in buy-to-let. This could reduce the supply of rented property and push up rents.
What We Know So Far
The Renters (Reform) Bill only gives limited details of how a Private Rented Sector Database and a digital Property Portal would work. It simply includes regulations which will allow these to be set up with details about how the database will be operated and overseen, what information will be collected and made public, and details about how renewals will work to be decided at a later date.
The Renters (Reform) Bill says a new Private Rented Sector Database will support a new digital Property Portal. This will include a new register of residential landlords and privately rented properties in England with entries of existing residential landlords, prospective residential landlords and properties which are, or are intended to be, let under residential tenancies.
The government says this is intended to ‘help landlords understand their legal obligations and demonstrate compliance, provide better information to tenants enabling them to make informed decisions when entering into a tenancy agreement and assist in targeting councils’ enforcement activity where it is most needed.’
The Renters (Reform) Bill says that the operator of the database will be the Secretary of State or an organisation appointed by the Secretary of State. It says that landlords will be required to sign up and register all properties they let out. It provides for local authorities to be able to take enforcement action against landlords who do not meet their obligations to register their properties.
The Renters (Reform) Bill proposes that the database should also include details of those who are subject to banning orders, who have been convicted of other offences, who have been financially penalised for other specified breaches, or who are subject to other regulatory action, as specified in regulations. This would replace the functions relating to private landlords in the existing Database of Rogue Landlords and Property Agents and provisions under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
What Information Would A Register Contain?
This is not known as yet. However, based on what we know so far and the experience of other national landlord registers it could contain some or all of the following information:
- The address of the rental property.
- The name and address of who legally owns the property.
- The name and address of who lets out the property, ie. the landlord. (Which may or may not be the owner.)
- Details of the track record of the owner and landlord, ie. whether they have broken any rules and regulations or have any relevant convictions.
- Details of the letting agent or managing agent if there is one.
- Details of the property. Such as the number of rooms and the amenities it has.
- Compliance documents. For example, the property’s EPC and gas and electrical safety certificates.
How Do National Landlord Registers Work?
When thinking about how a national landlord register might work in England, it might be useful to look at how such registers work in the other three countries of the UK.
Landlord Registration in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, the Landlord Registration Scheme collects and maintains information on landlords and their properties. All landlords who let properties under a private tenancy agreement in Northern Ireland must register and provide accurate and up-to-date information about themselves and their properties. Registration lasts for 3 years. There is a £70 registration fee (online registration).
Anyone can search the register to find details of whether a property is registered and details of landlords.
As well as basic details about the property landlords can provide voluntary information about the number of reception rooms and bedrooms, the type of heating, the type of glazing/doors, the energy performance and whether they would consider longer-term/more secure leasing.
Landlord Registration in Scotland
The Scottish Landlord Register is the official register of landlords of private rental properties in Scotland. New landlords must register and provide details of themselves and their properties and renew their registration every 3 years. Registration costs £75 plus £17 per property.
With the Scottish Landlord Register, anyone can search the register to find out who owns a rental property, see if a landlord is registered, find out who manages a property and check which local authority area a property is registered in.
Landlord Registration in Wales
In Wales, all landlords with privately rented property let out on a domestic tenancy are legally required to register with Rent Smart Wales. Each landlord registration involves providing the landlord’s personal details, rental property addresses owned by that landlord, and the details of those responsible for letting and/or management of the property.
Registration lasts for 5 years. A new application costs £45 if done online, and renewal costs £36.
Anyone can search the public register to find details of landlords, managing agents and rental properties.
When Will There Be A National Landlord Register?
At the time of writing, there is no definite date for when a national landlord register might be introduced in England.
The Renters (Reform) Bill proposes the introduction of both a digital Property Portal and a Private Rented Sector Database. However, these are only proposals and may not actually make it into law in the form proposed. The Bill itself may not actually become law.
If it proceeds through Parliament the Renters (Reform) Bill is unlikely to become law before late 2024 at the earliest. Even then a national landlord register may not be introduced until a later date.