We recently had our application to continue the city-wide Landlord Licensing scheme for another five years turned down by the Government.
The scheme, introduced in April 2015, is designed to ensure property owners who rent out their homes to tenants are ‘fit and proper’.
They are asked to declare convictions for dishonesty, violence or drug-related offences, or breaches of housing, landlord or tenant laws.
Licensed landlords’ properties must meet fire, electrical and gas safety standards and be in a good state of repair. Landlords must also be able to deal effectively with any complaints about their tenants.
Liverpool wanted to continue with the citywide scheme due to the size and scale of the issue with the private rented sector in the city, which accounts for up to half of housing in some areas and covers 55,000 properties in total.
We are waiting for feedback before assessing our options but are concerned the decision will severely hamper attempts to drive up standards in the private rental sector and keep vulnerable tenants safe — particularly in relation to fire safety in rented properties.
What difference has the scheme made since it was introduced?
Overall, 70 per cent of inspected properties in Liverpool have been found to be in breach of their licence condition since the scheme was launched in 2015, uncovering serious hazards such as fire risks, poor electrics and excess cold.
The council has carried out over 37,000 compliance actions, issued more than 2,500 legal and fixed penalty notices and prosecuted almost 250 landlords.
In practical terms, it means action has been taken to improve the lives of tenants — whether that is making electrics safe, installing working fire doors, tackling damp, making kitchens and bathrooms fit for purpose and preventing illegal evictions.
Liverpool alone has been responsible for 85 per cent of the national rise in prosecutions between 2012 and 2018.
It is not just about raising housing standards — it is about protecting and saving lives.
Aren’t there laws to protect tenants without the scheme?
The council will not have the same powers to deal proactively with poor property and tenant management and the ability to gain access to properties to carry out inspections and enforcement will be severely hampered.
Our capacity to carry out proactive enforcement will be severely diminished, particularly in the light of a £436 million real-term cut in funding from the Government since 2010.
Why does the council believe a city-wide scheme is needed?
The number of rented properties in the city has been rising for many years, due to below average property prices. Across Liverpool, 30 per cent of homes are now rented, but in some areas it is as high as 50 per cent. Furthermore, the number is continuing to grow. The legislation allows you to apply the scheme to areas that are at risk of low demand in the future.
Poorly managed accommodation has a high turnover of tenants, which is destabilising for the local community as residents do not get to know their neighbours, and leads to a spiral of decline in relation to low demand for properties.
Coupled with the fact that Liverpool has one of the highest vacancy rates in England, it ends up driving down demand for housing.
Isn’t it just a money-making scheme for the council?
No. All the money raised from landlord licensing is ploughed back into the cost of running the scheme.
Employing staff who are out on the streets every day inspecting properties
Administering the scheme
Taking enforcement action against landlords
Legal costs of taking landlords to court
Carrying out urgent improvement work which is then charged to landlords
The cost — £412 for the first property and £360 for each additional home — works out at less than £7 per property per month over the five years of the scheme.
The cost is halved if the landlord is a member of either of the three co-regulation schemes we run with the Residential Landlords Association, Association of Residential Letting Agents and National Approved Letting Scheme.