Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Renters may get access to rogue landlord database (bbc.co.uk)
103 points by pmoriarty 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments

NYC has a few resources on checking out bad landlords:

The public advocate puts out an annual list of the 100 worst landlords:


There's also various sites that attempt to connect property ownership data with other city databases, such as inspection violations: https://whoownswhat.justfix.nyc

That's great. The UK really needs some regulations against scammy landlords and agents.

The market is a total Wild West now. During the last 5 years, I have rented many different properties in the Oxbridge area. All brand new houses (I really was the first person living there), from well-known estate agents and with high rental prices.

In all cases except one, I have ended up really dissatisfied. Most properties never attempted to renew my contract after 6/12 months, or asked for an unreasonable rental increase in order to actually kick me out. I suspect this was done to put the property back into the market and generate more fees for the agent. Often, the property would be vacant for a month or two after I left, which makes even less sense.

Twice, my deposit has not been returned and no explanation has been provided. Naturally, I took both cases to the Ombudsman and won. But it is a huge waste of time.

Twice, I had massive floods due to piping issues but received no compensation despite their promises and legal obligation to do so.

I have rented many other properties abroad, including US & Scandinavia. And never had an issue. Here, it is crazy bad. And as a tenant you can't do much, because you need references in order to rent the next flat.

> Most properties never attempted to renew my contract

Martin & Co by any chance? They tried this, but they must have forgotten that the property was an annex next to the landlady's main house, and we spoke every day. The estate agent served me an eviction notice, so I just signed a new rolling contract with the landlady directly.

Other evidence of their genius comes from the fact I specifically told them I was wanting to rent a place for my new job in the area, and them then writing to my old employer in Manchester to confirm my future income.

No, but I have heard some bad stuff from Martin & Co at work which matches your experience.

The only decent landlord I have had was a rich guy in Cambridge who marketed his properties (he also built them) through Savills (crazy fees though) and managed them himself, without an agent.

So I agree with you. Having middle-men tends to make things even worse.

My wife and I had an apartment in Brooklyn a few years ago that we broke the lease after two months. It was a total horror show, complete w/ bedbugs and broken everything. Glad to see that landlord on the landlordwatch.com private landlords list, thanks for posting.

How about making it symmetrical and also give landlords access to a rogue renter database?

Leaving aside the fact that rental markets already have a highly asymmetric power dynamic, landlords in the UK already do have a de-facto mechanism for assessing tenants in the form of landlord references. They can also perform various financial checks, such as employer references, or asking for a guarantor.

On the other hand, I rent in London and do not even know the name of our landlord. He/she operates through various limited companies and an agent. I can infer it through Companies House but that option wouldn't have been available before we put down our holding deposit.

> Leaving aside the fact that rental markets already have a highly asymmetric power dynamic, landlords in the UK already do have a de-facto mechanism for assessing tenants in the form of landlord references. They can also perform various financial checks, such as employer references, or asking for a guarantor.

These are just things they ask for though - there's no special legal power they have to ask for them - you could also ask for the same things from your prospective landlord if you wanted to, and you'd have the same information.

They'd probably decline to provide them and refuse to rent to you, in the same way as you can decline to provide them and refuse to rent from them.

> They'd probably decline to provide them, in the same way as you can decline to provide them.

The consequences of declining are very different for both parties. The landlord moves on to literally any other prospect because everyone else will provide that information. The tenant can move on to only slumlords, who will not insist on a credit/criminal background/reference check. Or they can be homeless.

> The consequences of declining are very different for both parties.

Right this is the power asymmetry we already mentioned.

I think that's really more a function of what slant the market is currently in, ie, renter's or landlord's market.

If there were a glut of apartments compared to renters, the desperateness would be reversed.

And that is the case in exactly which places? I'm not saying that doesn't exist, but I'd be surprised to find that it's a common situation. But hey, find some stats and change my mind :)

What would the desperateness of the landlords look like, I wonder?

A willingness to waive references, fees, et cetera for any halfway decent looking tenant. I've benefited from that in the past.

>They'd probably decline to provide them and refuse to rent to you, in the same way as you can decline to provide them and refuse to rent from them.

Well... yeah exactly. You realistically don't have the option to ask for a reference about them and you can't simply refuse to rent from them because you need shelter and 99% of people won't went to you if you don't play ball.

Changes in favour of tenants are being proposed because in reality there is a problematic power dynamic. You can discuss whatever fanciful hypothetical you like to insist it is somehow not the case "legally" but reality tells a story that you can't ignore.

Most, if not all, the changes currently made supposedly in favour of tenants are made for political purposes, not to actually solve any issues.

The market is very hot in places like London. This makes tenants 'unhappy'. In turn this makes the government propose ill-thought measures for political gains.

These measures tend to decrease supply (since they all hit on landlords) when they should increase supply with a disproportionate focus on "rogue landlords".

That's with a Tory government. Labour's current view is the hard-left and thus private landlords are to be hit as a matter of ideology...

If they wanted to fix the problem then they'd tax capital gains at the same rate as income and would eliminate all of the other tax benefits related to owning a second (or third) home.

It was common 20 years ago for people in their mid-forties to use the massive equity in their home to buy multiple properties for the rental market. House prices at the time were growing so they not only had someone else basically buy their house over 25 years they also profited greatly from the inflation in house prices. With the increase in prices they could increase the rent so the whole thing is a triple-whammy.

This didn't happen as much in other countries because other countries reduced the tax benefits for this scenario.

> If they wanted to fix the problem then they'd tax capital gains at the same rate as income

That's again trying to limit supply because that's obviously reducing profitability.

We need to increase supply, or decrease demand, or both. Nothing is done on this.

> If they wanted to fix the problem then they'd tax capital gains at the same rate as income ...

That idea is so bad that not even the governments of the world, money grubbers though they are, have signed up for it. It would create a world where no capital was for sale; any path from going from low-mid to mid-high income (apart from entrepreneurship) would be closed off and a whole bunch of new 'unrealted' problems would turn up because purchasing power would be diverted away from people who care about the future to people who consume in the present.

Capital gains is a wealth creation engine whereby people voluntarily choose not consume in order to create things that other people want. There is a pretty decent philosophical case for not taxing capital gains full stop. There is probably a great reason why in practice it would not work, but as a principle it is like corporate tax - disincentivizing and de-emphasizing people who would otherwise give their resources to others.

If you want to wage class warfare, consider inheritance or land taxes. My personal preference would be to go one step more subtle and wind back the bail-outs and money printing. Capital Gains taxes are not the lever we need, the risk of collateral damage to the investment ecosystem is too high and by the time the damage is obvious enough to unwind a change we'll be 10 years in and facing a dearth of long term planning.

I am not a renter any more (bought a home several years ago) , and it may be different in Large cities but when I was renting I most definitely had more power than the LandLord. There was more vacancy than tenants, and properties where falling over themselves to get someone with a High Credit Score (me) into a unit. Offer all kinds of Deals, give aways, and would answer any question I asked including tenant references.

This was in a city of about 250,000 people so not a small town, but not a large metro like London or New York either.

GP posted:

> Leaving aside the fact that rental markets already have a highly asymmetric power dynamic

You responded:

> They'd probably decline to provide them and refuse to rent to you, in the same way as you can decline to provide them and refuse to rent from them.

This sounds like the definition of an asymmetric power difference to me. Sure, I can refuse to provide financial checks or a guarantor, but that only hurts me. Asking for that information from my landlord also only hurts me as a landlord is likely to avoid me (and tell the other landlords he knows) and go with someone more compliant.

Yes... my comment was made ignoring the asymmetric power, as GP said. I quoted that bit myself.

That's what makes it asymmetric. You need a place to live and need them. They have ample supply of renters that won't ask questions, they don't need you.

Yes but the person I was replying to said

> Leaving aside the fact that rental markets already have a highly asymmetric power dynamic

> These are just things they ask for though - there's no special legal power they have to ask for them - you could also ask for the same things from your prospective landlord if you wanted to, and you'd have the same information.

You could ask, but there's zero chance they'd give them to you in this market.

There’s not a single landlord who will rent without a background check. Your options are be homeless or submit. The landlords options in response to your demand are rent to one of the dozens of other people who want to rent from them or submit. Not exactly the same choice.

In the USA they essentially already have this in the form of forcing prospective tenants to submit to a background check and being able to pull rental/eviction history. I would think that this is just correcting the information/power imbalance.

They recently (June) made this illegal in NYC. Whether it's enforced is a different matter.

Problem is with the laws generally favoring tenants here, there are litigious bad apples and no one wants a tenant who can game the system and get 6-12 months of free lodging because they know how. After 30 days, you have squatter rights which means the court system needs to evict you if you're naughty, and that can take a long time. On the flip side, if you as a tenant ended up in housing court and won (i.e. it wasn't your fault), you were in that database.

Interesting, although I will note for other readers that NYC and other large left-leaning cities are exceptions rather than the norm regarding tenant protections. Texas, where I live, for example, has much more landlord-friendly laws.

Renters are routinely backgrounded as a part of the process. FTA:

> "Renters have to provide references from employers and previous landlords before a landlord hands over the keys to a new flat. So it is only fair that renters get the opportunity to check that a prospective landlord doesn't have a criminal record," said Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent, which campaigns on behalf of tenants.

Credit checks, criminal background check, employment history check, previous landlord reference are standard parts of a rental application. My landlord has tons of visibility into my finances and history with previous landlords. I know nothing about their books and only online reviews to tell me about their dealings with previous tenants.

I don't know UK law, but eviction history is a public record in almost all of the US. Likewise the credit checks that are nearly universally required are a proxy for this sort of thing too.

Basically: landlords already have this, in redundancy even. They aren't the aggrieved party here.

You kind of get this already to be fair. Doing a credit check or lookup of any CCJs etc on potentisl tenants is standard procedure. It doesn't tell you if they're loud or will damage the property, but neither would this I guess.

The rogue renter database already exists, it's called a credit check, and a list of landlord references for your last three addresses, that you include in your application.

Here in California, counties maintain publicly accessible property records, indexed by street address. Corporate owners must register with the state, and the various state enforcement agencies present records indexed by name of violator on their own websites.

Working through all the above steps manually is of course impractical for most renters. There may be a startup opportunity here -- a "badpads.com".

Landlords will often perform a credit/background check on potential renters, so it seems like this exists to fix an existing information asymmetry.

Isn't that just when they run my credit and check for past evictions. How much of a rogue renter can one be, and get away with it?

As far as I know, in some cities they do already keep a tenant blacklist.

hopefully this trend will carry over into employment too - run a background check on a prospective employer before you decide to do business with them

This one is hard, for two reasons:

1. Small Companies: These guys will have limited or no reviews online simply because of their size.

2. Large Companies: A bad review is moot depending on where in the company you work. I've had a fantastic experience with my current employer but that has less to do with the company and more to do with the team/manager. Someone could work at the same company nad have a horrible experience on a different team or working for a different department.

maybe something like ratenyprofessor but for sr management. a few people (with too much unchecked power) can tarnish the image of an entire organization

There's already Glassdoor (although it has become quite spammy - like LinkedIn before Microsoft bought it).

Glassdoor, Yelp etc are all games by reputation management companies and HR departments. It's also in the best interest of Glassdoor and Yelp to allow businesses to remove unsatisfactory reviews, which Yelp already does.

Do you have evidence? I've written a number of unsatisfactory reviews on Yelp and they seem like they're still there.


I know of some HR people who faked some reviews on Glassdoor. They were mostly trying to remedy lack of reviews or counteract a few bad reviews. Both said they would remove the fake reviews when the situation improved by itself.

these are full of fake reviews- i mean a legit background check like criminal background , social/political views ...etc. similar to the suitability check done on employees

It would be nice if they could incorporate some indication of respect for deposits as well. From personal experience, the current deposit protection schemes might be legally regulated and they aren't quite as unhelpful and sometimes shady as the private car parking enforcement firms, but they seem to be cut from the same cloth.

The reason this is not going to be useful is that every story I've read or personal anecdote I've been told about landlords involves the person's building being sold to a new owner. Usually the rogue landlord buys a rent controlled building that is barely worth owning so the current owner wants out, and the rogue landlord then proceeds to make the place as unlivable as possible for the current tenants in order to convert the units to market rate when they move out. I don't think many landlords are trying to trick people to move into their buildings just to harass them and throw them out.

This is England. Rent control isn't a thing.

Interesting. So why isn't an activist outfit like Generation Rent (the group pushing for this law) working on getting rent control? In the US everyone on the left takes it as a given that rent control is a good thing.

Why aren't you able to first Google whether they are or not, rather than automatically assume they aren't because an article about something different doesn't mention their entire political advocacy work?


Generation Rent is very much on the left and very much in favour of rent control.

They've already tried but this is a Tory government so they cannot completely destroy the private rented sector.

But be sure that if Corbyn/Labour get in power soon this will be implemented no matter the economics against it.

Anecdata: My brother is a small-C conservative who is very worried about Corbyn precisely because he is expecting Corbyn to introduce rent controls. However, he also recently said, and I quote: “The conservatives cannot be trusted with the economy“. Given the current clown-car-on-fire-in-a-dumpster that is British politics right now, I would give 50% odds of the next election happening within one year and equally divided odds the largest party after that election being Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, or Brexit Party.

Not that this contradicts anything you’ve just said.

Bear in mind that rent control, like all other government-enforced programs, suffers from unintended consequences. It provides disincentives to maintain properties, disincentives to build more properties, and may therefore result in far fewer housing options for the area affected. Just like fiat money expansion measures, only those at the beginning of the effect benefit, most others suffer the consequences.

Edit: Sources https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-01-18/yup-re... https://realestateinvestingtoday.com/how-rent-control-reduce... https://www.rpbg.org/index.php/rent-control-it-doesn-t-work https://www.multifamilynw.org/news/the-high-cost-of-rent-con...

Few reasons, mostly because home ownership is fetishised in the UK to an absurdity and doing so could quite possibly curb property values. Previous conservative governments bribed practically an entire social class by giving away social housing at way below market value.

There is a massive amount of people in that generation who are wealthy simply because of that policy combined with large rise in house prices. This selection of people + regular homeowners no matter the party line, will always vote against any policy that a) has the possibility to curb increasing house prices or b) fairly taxing those profits.

We don't have anything like property taxes in the UK, and the closest thing we do have is council tax which (laughably) is the tenants responsibility. It's a situation that no party has a realistic chance of being able to solve. Even if there were MPs brave enough, it's a difficult problem to navigate because there's millions of people with 0 savings (retirement or otherwise) but now own 500,000gbp+ houses.

If you tax that appreciation in value or your policies reduce these prices to sustainable levels then you suddenly have to now provide social security for millions of people who now will need a lot of extra assistance via state pension.

Landlords already have access to a database compiled from court records of tenants who have ever sued a landlord whether they won or not. At least in the US

And yet still, be unable to do anything about it. Because there is less limited supply.

Why exactly is this story on HN? Read the article, and was like - so?... I guess there's a DB mentioned, although containing 10 entries sounds like a joke. So trying to find the "tech" angle and all.

I recommend that you read the site guidelines at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Specifically "On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity." and "Please don't complain that a submission is inappropriate. If a story is spam or off-topic, flag it."

In general, if a story is in the front page it means that hackers found it interesting, so it can hardly be off-topic. But if you still think it's inappropriate for this forum, flag it rather than commenting.

I can speculate that this story is found interesting because many people in tech live in areas like San Francisco where rent prices are a hot topic. Therefore stories about how these kinds of places deal with the problem are relevant.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact