We were interested to see BBC coverage of a new website which allows tenants to rate and review their landlord. The site
https://www.marksoutoftenancy.com/ has all the disadvantages of other ratings sites and probably does little to allow customers/providers to make better informed choices. What is also missing is the ability to 'rate and review" tenants.
In the past, we maintained a 'black list" of tenants who had defaulted on rent or damaged property which we shared with members so that they could better understand what they were taking on. We stopped this practice many years ago due to the risk of unfair labelling, potential libel cases and what has since become known as personal data protection. But in its absence our members regularly share 'If you are thinking of letting to Mr ABC we recommend you take references from their previous landlord" messages - effectively code for 'I had a bad experience, please talk to me before letting to this person so you can avoid the same".
The same concerns should apply to blacklisting landlords - who can tell whether a review is malicious or vengeful, who knows whether the mould complained about was due to a maintenance issue or an excess of radiator dried laundry and lots of cooking without saucepan lids and windows constantly closed?
There is also an argument that we need to be allowed to identify serial bad tenants. Whilst laws controlling landlords tighten ever more, there is nothing that stops or discourages a serial bad tenant from trashing property after property and leaving a string of landlords out of pocket. We are asked to provide high standards of accommodation and we are expected to fit our dwellings into the local community such that they don"t impact parking or create additional noise, waste or traffic - yet we are also expected to house the increasingly large contingent of those tenants who just don"t have the skills (or often the will) to fit harmoniously into a community.
Over the past 100 years these people were looked after in Social Housing but as the proportion of dwellings provided by local councils and housing associations continues to diminish, the burden increasingly falls on private landlords. Indeed, we have seen cases where tenants evicted from social housing due to their behaviour are inflicted on private landlords and the communities in which they live without any warning or awareness of their history.
One of our members recently wrote, "Two tenants from a homeless charity, on housing benefit were in our property for two and a half years. Sadly, they both slipped through the local authority net and lost the support they needed to live independently (one with early onset dementia and the other with dementia related to alcohol). After getting them back in the system twice, and not being in a position to provide the care and support they required we used section 21 (with their agreement) to make them homeless and ensure they were both placed in homes that provided them with the support and assistance they so desperately needed." In this case, the landlord knew what she was taking on, but often that is not the case due to the lack of tenancy history - perhaps we should ask prospective tenants for their 'Tenancy CV".
One issue with services like marksoutoftenancy.com is that they need to have large volumes of users to give balance and to show a true picture and they need governance and management - the BBC story highlighted a tenant who left a bad review of a landlord, "He had complained after his then girlfriend was forced to throw away hundreds of pounds worth of clothes that went mouldy because of a poorly-ventilated built-in wardrobe. So the couple felt more than a little aggrieved when their landlord began quibbling over a missing £3 bed cover." - An informed landlord will realise that the mould on clothes in this situation is as likely to be tenant caused as landlord caused - we cannot tell which from the article but for a landlord to be branded as a rogue on the basis of this one review is dangerous and damaging.
It is too easy for tenants who do not understand their obligations or who just fall out with their landlord to slag off a perfectly good landlord. There is a system for agents that gives the agent right of reply but to do this fairly is difficult. https://www.allagents.co.uk People rarely put in good reviews so the customer does not get any balance.
We are not advocating an eBay style alternative - 'you leave me a good review and then I will leave you one too", but we do need something that puts balance back into the relationship, whether that is a tenant rating system or something completely different as the tables are too heavily weighted in favour of the tenant and unfortunately, the bad ones take advantage of this and create havoc in the lives of many good landlords.
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.