Housing standards pledge as licensing scheme ends

Terraced houses

Housing chiefs in Liverpool are pledging to continue taking action against poor standards in the private rented sector – despite the city’s pioneering Landlord Licensing scheme coming to an end.

For the past five years, all property owners, landlords and managing agents have been legally required to licence any property unless a statutory exemption applied – but that ends today after the government turned down a renewal application.

There were 51,764 property licences in force, issued to 10,074 licence holders, and the team conducted over 34,000 compliance checks of properties and identified 65 per cent as not being fully complaint with licence conditions at first visit.

As well as variable management standards, 3,375 of the most serious category 1 and 2 hazards were discovered, affecting the health, safety and well-being of residents. These ranged from fire safety hazards to significant damp and mould, serious disrepair and excess cold issues.

There were over 300 successful prosecutions that led to fines and in one case a custodial sentence for offences including operating unlicensed properties, breaches of licence conditions and failure to comply with legal notices – and more than 2,500 fines were issued.

All current cases that are with the legal team will continue to be processed and taken to court where necessary and the council is actively looking at submitting another application to the government for a substantial landlord licensing scheme.

From April 1st, the service will continue to use its statutory powers provide help and advice for tenants and landlords, focusing on the licensing and inspection of the 3,000 houses of multiple occupation (HMO), as well as investigating complaints and referrals about private sector housing in Liverpool.

All existing licence holders renting out a property with five or more tenants, forming two or more households, require a HMO licence, in line with legislation introduced in 2018. More information can be found at: https://liverpool.gov.uk/business/landlord-licensing/houses-in-multiple-occupancy/hmo-licence-guidance/

The new email address for the team is privatesector.housing@liverpool.gov.uk

Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan, said: “Landlord licensing enabled us, for the first time ever, to build a picture of the private rented sector in the city and take action where necessary.

“It is a great shame that the government turned down our application for another city-wide scheme, but we are committed to continuing to do what we can to protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords.

“Where we receive a complaint we will investigate but regrettably, apart from the HMO sector, we will no longer have the capacity to do proactive work in terms of knocking on doors to check conditions.

“The size of the private rented sector in Liverpool – in some areas 50 per cent of properties – means we can’t afford to be without a landlord licensing scheme.

”All the evidence we have shows that it literally saves lives, which is why Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and Merseyside Police have been so supportive, and will continue to work with us in tackling issues such as fire hazards and anti-social behaviour in this sector.”

“We are proactively looking at the options open to us and hope to make a decision on the way forward in the near future. In the meantime, we will do the very best we can with the reduced resources at our disposal.”-