A new public database plots every property firm convicted of a housing offence in England and Wales.
The data was released by the Ministry of Justice after intervention from the Information Commissioner in response to a freedom of information request by Environmental Health News and The Guardian.
Environmental Health News is the official newspaper of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
The Information Commissioner agreed businesses were not entitled to the same degree of privacy as individual landlords who have been before the courts.
The most prosecuted property company is Aspire Group Developments, from Burnley, Lancashire. The company has five convictions listed on the database.
Aspire reportedly rents out hundreds of homes in Lancashire towns.
The company has property assets of £13 million.
Topaz Property Company Ltd, Cardiff, was second most prosecuted firm, with four housing convictions. Last year the company was fined for renting out two unlicensed HMOs in Newport, Gwent, and an unsafe house HMO in Cardiff.
The two highest fines were imposed on Watchstar Ltd and Watchacre Ltd, both owned by Mehmet Parlak, branded as a ‘rogue landlord’ by North London’s Haringey Council.
Parlak was fined £40,000 for offences relating to four houses in multiple occupation (HMO) in Tottenham, North London, in 2013 and £23,000 in 2012 for renting out an unlicensed, overcrowded HMO, which posed a fire risk for tenants.
The database is the first public recognition of a rumoured national landlord database set up by local authorities in England and Wales to identify bad landlords.
The aim is to help councils identify landlords convicted of housing offences to bar them as a ‘fit and proper person’ for managing shared HMOs.
CIEH vice president Stephen Battersby argued criminal landlords should be banned from letting property.
“The fact that these firms have been prosecuted successfully means they can safely be described as criminal – that is fact. These are the firms who should not be allowed to operate in the private rented sector,”’ he said.
“Currently there is little to stop convicted landlords from renting out homes although councils with licensing schemes carry out fit and proper person checks, which take into account prosecutions.
“It is only when the notice has failed to be complied with or license breached or no licence applied for after requests do authorities move to think of prosecution,”’ he said. “So these prosecutions are only the tip of the iceberg. Even if many landlords act responsibly, this data indicates that far too many landlords around the country are getting away with flouting the law and endangering their tenants.”