Liverpool has had confirmation from the Government that its landlord licensing scheme can be introduced from April 2015. Here, Assistant Mayor and Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Ann O’Byrne explains why it will mean a better deal for private tenants in Liverpool
In April, Liverpool will begin the biggest landlord licensing scheme in the country.
Anyone who privately rents out a property in the city will be required to have a five-year licence for each of them.
It’s a really big step and, we believe, one that will be a game changer in improving the quality of housing in the sector.
This is a real issue for Liverpool. The city has around 50,000 privately rented properties, and we recognise they are vital in meeting the city’s housing needs. But although many landlords operate professionally, we are concerned about a number who fail to meet satisfactory standards of tenancy and property management.
Every one of my fellow 90 councillors could tell you horror stories of tenants who have come to their advice surgeries begging for help. Tales of damp, poorly maintained or even downright dangerous houses. Leaking, broken or cracked windows. Repairs that take forever (or are never done).
We know that poorly managed properties lead to problems such as anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, and are a blight on our neighbourhoods – putting pressure on our already squeezed budgets.
Our landlord licensing scheme is about rebalancing the system in favour of tenants. Giving them an expectation of their rights – and the city council the power to tackle breaches.
We will determine that the proposed licence holder is a ‘fit and proper’ person to manage their properties, for example if they have a criminal record. And make sure they meet conditions around fire, electric and gas safety, keep the exterior in a good state of repair and deal with complaints about anti-social behaviour caused by tenants.
When we consulted on this, 89 percent of people who took part in a telephone survey were supportive, as were two thirds of the other organisations we asked about it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has provoked a few squeals from landlord representatives. But all the evidence that we have shows that compulsory regulation is the only way forward. We have taken steps to reduce the cost of a five year licence to reward good landlords, and for those who are members of a council approved accreditation schemes, it works out at around 75p per property per week. That is less than one percent of the average weekly rent paid by private tenants in Liverpool.
We will put the money raised to good use in carrying out the necessary checks to make sure that landlords are meeting the required standards.
Private tenants deserve a better deal than they are currently getting. Our landlord licensing scheme will help deliver it.