Government set to be asked to renew landlord licensing scheme

Liverpool City Council is set to submit a bid to the Government to extend its pioneering landlord licensing scheme for another five years from 1 April 2020.

It follows a three-month consultation from March to May which garnered views on the cost of the licence, the conditions and the wider benefits of the ground-breaking scheme to tenants and the community. A majority of the residents who responded – 58 per cent – agreed with the conditions laid down by the scheme.

The council first launched the scheme in April 2015 to help drive up standards in the private rental sector. It requires property owners across Liverpool to hold a licence for each of their rental homes.

Over 52,000 licences have been issued since 2015 to around 9,000 landlords and almost 29,000 compliance actions have been carried out by the 55-strong team. Overall, 70 per cent of inspected properties were found to be in breach of their licence conditions. Inspections have also uncovered serious hazards such as fire and excess cold.

It is a criminal offence to rent out a property without the required licence and nearly 2,200 legal notices have been issued, with 110 fixed penalty notices issued, and 19 successful prosecutions.

Nationally, figures show that Liverpool alone is responsible for 389 per cent of the 460 per cent national rise in prosecutions between 2012 and 2018.

The Landlord Licensing team works alongside street scene officers, Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and other partners to identify unlicensed properties and address issues on non–compliance.

Following feedback during the consultation, the council has reviewed the fees originally proposed for the scheme, down from £550 to £450 per property, while licence holders for accredited properties will be subject to a £300 fee per property licence, rather than the £350 originally proposed. This is paid in two instalments and is much lower than fees charged by other local authorities.

The Cabinet will consider a report at its meeting on Friday 19 July recommending the council seek approval from the Secretary of State for the scheme to continue. A decision is expected in the autumn.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “Over the last five years, Landlord Licensing has got us through the door at tens of thousands of private rented properties – and in the majority of cases we have found they need action to bring them up to standard.

“Poorly managed properties have a negative impact on tenants and blight neighbouring properties and communities, so a well-managed private rented sector is key to helping improve our residents’ lives.

“Our licensing team has found many shocking examples of landlords happy to take rent off their tenants, while providing them with substandard accommodation, often with issues around heating, damp and poor electrics.

“We’ve made massive progress and led the way nationally in tackling poor housing conditions and bad property management, but we believe we need to continue with the scheme beyond 2020 to continue making a difference and drive up standards in the sector.

Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, added: “This is about creating a level playing field for the sector and making sure tenants have an understanding of the standards they should expect.

“Every single penny we get is ringfenced for the landlord licensing service, with our team out on the streets every day inspecting properties, chasing disrepairs and taking landlords to court when they don’t sort out the problems.”

Nick McCormack, Station Manager for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Working in partnership with the council landlord licensing team, landlords and residents helps us identify any potential risks to our communities before they develop into more serious incidents that may present a risk to life. We strongly support an extension to the landlord licensing scheme which will improve residents’ quality of life, increase building safety and reduce the potential for serious incidents before they occur.”