Advice encouraging landlords to 'stalk' potential tenants withdrawn

The Residential Landlords’ Association has since removed the advice and Alan Ward, the association’s chair, said the publication had been a 'cock-up'

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An organisation representing private landlords has been accused of encouraging “borderline harassment” after urging members to make surprise visits on prospective tenants before they sign a tenancy.

The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) circulated a 10-point list of tips for landlords seeking new tenants, which included being wary of people living with their parents as “often they become a problem”, and advised trying to “make an unexpected visit to where they live now – that way you can see how they look after that property and confirm they actually live there.”

The blogpost also recommended serving a tenant with notice to leave on the first day they moved in, so there is no delay in removing them at the end of a tenancy agreement – a practice which will be outlawed following the passing of the Deregulation Bill in parliament this week.

The RLA represents more than 18,000 landlords who between them let more than a million British homes.

Giles Peaker, a housing and tenancy lawyer, said the tone of the guidelines betrayed the attitudes of many landlords towards tenants. “Every single one of [these tips] regards the tenant as a potential menace,” he said.

Once a property has been rented, it is illegal for a landlord to visit without giving 24 hours’ notice in writing. Mr Peaker said that turning up to check on prospective tenants would be “tantamount to stalking”, although there is no law preventing it if it happens only once. “It’s certainly a breach of people’s privacy,” he said. “People without CRB checks, turning up on people’s doorsteps and demanding to be let in, is dreadful.”

 

The RLA has since removed the advice and Alan Ward, the association’s chair, said the publication had been a “cock-up” rather than conspiracy.

Mr Ward said the advice for landlords had been published online by the association some years ago but had been circulated again by its marketing team, though its content was now considered out of date. “It was an honest mistake,” he added. “There are plenty of ways of making sure you get a good tenant.”

Samir Jeraj, a housing expert at the Race Equality Foundation, said poor advice for landlords would impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“It seems odd to me that you can have that amount of control over someone’s life as a landlord but not even have the same amount of scrutiny as a taxi driver. You have the ability to quite literally make someone homeless,” he said.

“Nowhere in [the advice] is the idea that the tenant is your customer. It’s because of the power that is accrued by landlords when there’s so much housing demand.”

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