Landlord licensing scheme set for approval

Row of terraced houses

Liverpool City Council is set to introduce a licensing scheme for the city’s 50,000 private rented properties – in a bid to drive up the quality of housing in the sector.

It follows a three month consultation over the proposal, and would mean that all landlords who privately rent properties in the city would require a licence for each of their rented properties.

The city council will need to determine that the proposed licence holder is a ‘fit and proper’ person to manage their properties, including having regard, amongst other things, to any convictions for dishonesty, violence or drugs or contraventions of housing or landlord/tenant laws.

Landlords will have to meet a variety of conditions around fire, electric and gas safety; rectify disrepair issues; tackle pest infestations; keep the exterior in a good state of repair and deal with complaints about anti-social behaviour caused by tenants.

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Ann O’Byrne, said: “We all know someone with a horror story to tell about a bad landlord. This scheme is about giving tenants some expectation of their rights, and the city council the power to tackle breaches.

“Liverpool has a growing number of privately rented properties and the sector is vital in meeting the city’s housing needs, so it is important that what is on offer is of high quality.

“Although many landlords operate professionally, we are concerned about a number of landlords who rent properties which fail to meet satisfactory standards of tenancy and property management.

“This has a negative impact on the health and welfare of local communities and on a housing market that is already vulnerable in terms of vacant properties, low house prices and depressed rental values.

“Poorly managed properties also lead to problems such as anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, and are a blight on the city’s neighbourhoods.

“Responsible landlords who provide quality accommodation for tenants have absolutely nothing to fear from this scheme, and we are exploring ways of reducing the licence fee wherever possible for good, compliant landlords.

During the consultation, more than 2,000 responses were received from landlords, tenants, residents and stakeholders.

Residents who responded were generally in favour of the proposals – with 89 percent who were contacted in a telephone survey giving it the thumbs up, while 59 percent of residents who completed an online questionnaire were supportive.

Two thirds of the other organisations consulted also indicated their support.

People who were broadly supportive said it would make it easier to identify absentee landlords and give tenants better consumer protection.

However, there was opposition from letting agents, landlords and landlords’ forums for the scheme, with more than 80 percent against it.

No final decision has been made about the cost to landlords, although a figure of less than £2 per week per property has been suggested. This would be tax deductible consideration will be given to reduced fees if landlords are members of an accreditation scheme or have multiple properties.

The fees will only be used for legitimate costs incurred by the council such as compliance checks to make sure landlords are meeting the conditions of the licence.

Discussions are also underway with Residential Landlords Association, the National Landlords Association and a group of lettings agents about a co-regulation model whereby accredited landlords are deemed to comply and would pay a reduced fee.

If approved by the Cabinet at its meeting on Friday 10 October, the scheme will be introduced from April 2015.