The council behind a controversial private rental sector licensing scheme is trying to justify its introduction on health and safety grounds.
On August 1 Nottingham council introduced a new selective licensing regime covering an estimated 32,000 privately rented homes; this is an estimated 91 per cent of all rental properties making it the second scheme in the UK outside of London according to some industry experts.
The scheme has received a hostile reception from landlords and, reportedly, a low take up so far - but now the council has issued a statement justifying it as a means of helping tenants faced with what it calls “bad landlords.”
The authority says that last year it carried out 280 enforcement actions in the form of legal notices against landlords due to poor conditions.
“I’ve been in this job for 20 years and the most common thing we see is issues around fire safety. Not only do we see properties with no smoke detectors, but also with poor means of escape or a lack of doors” explains Steve Matthews, principal environmental health officer in the council’s ‘Safer Housing Team’.
“In a recent case tenants who were desperate for housing moved into a property where the kitchen had been completely ripped out with the promise from the landlord that a new kitchen would shortly be fitted – it never was. There were no food storage facilities or cooking facilities and the ceiling had come down. It was a treacherous situation which we quickly got the tenants out of by issuing an emergency prohibition order” he continues.
“I’ve also seen a lot of properties with no hot water or heating. This can be because of failure to maintain equipment but also refusing to do anything when equipment is faulty.
These issues, as well as numerous other ones I have come across, not only put the tenants at risk but also the property and the neighbours.”
One of the politicians behind the scheme, councillor Jane Urquhart, claims the new licensing means tenants “will now be clear on what is expected of their landlord in terms of property management and standards.”
She says: “By providing a clear set of guidelines, which all landlords need to meet, the scheme will help prevent bad landlords cut corners or ‘undercut’ good ones, creating a level playing field for all. This is good news for good landlords who are operating legitimately and complying with the law, as Nottingham’s reputation for providing quality housing increases.”
The licence fee costs £480 or £780 depending on accreditation. The council insists it is not making a profit from the licensing, income from which “goes towards the cost of setting up, operating and delivering the scheme.”
“We believe that the licence fee should not lead to landlords increasing rent but recognise that some landlords may choose to do this. The council has worked hard to offer lower fees to accredited landlords, with savings of £300 on the licence applications fee. If landlords do increase rents, this should be following the correct legal procedures and should not exploit this opportunity” warns Urquhart.