Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is writing to the Government expressing grave concerns over its decision to reject an application to continue its pioneering landlord licensing scheme.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has turned down an application to keep the citywide scheme going for five years from April 2020 – despite it being backed by Merseyside Police, Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and the majority of residents who responded to the consultation.
The council rejects the Government’s view that the application “did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city” and is asking for more detail on how it reached the decision.
Government approval is needed for schemes which cover more than 20 per cent of a council area, and Liverpool wanted to continue with a 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.
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.
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, electrical safety 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.
The impact has meant that Liverpool alone has been responsible for 389 per cent of the 460 per cent national rise in prosecutions between 2012 and 2018.
Without the scheme, the council will not have the same powers to gain access to properties to carry out inspections and enforcement, and the capacity to carry out proactive enforcement will be severely diminished.
The council is asking for detailed clarification on the reasons for the rejection of the application to renew the scheme, and the evidence that they relied on.
The next step for the council will be to consider whether to legally challenge the decision.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This decision is not only ill-thought through and short-sighted, it also puts the lives of some of our most vulnerable tenants at risk.
“This decision flies in the face of the Government’s tough talk on housing standards, particularly around fire safety in rented properties.
“Over the last five years our officers have come across people whose landlords are happy to take their rent while allowing them to live in appalling conditions with unsafe electrics, gas supply and no fire doors to protect them in the event that a blaze breaks out.
“The Landlord Licensing scheme has enabled us to create a team to be able to hit the streets every day and carry out inspections of properties and bring rogue landlords to book. It is not just about raising housing standards – it is about protecting and saving lives.
“This Government has already taken away £436 million of our funding since 2010 and is now weakening our power to improve housing standards for those who are part of generation rent to the bare minimum.
“All of the talk of devolution away from Whitehall rings hollow when we see ministers in London making vital decisions about cities like Liverpool and other areas they never step foot in.”
Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, added: “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.
“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. It is devastating that our ability to protect our most vulnerable residents is being taken away from us.”