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Controversial council warns landlords not to raise rents to pay licences

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.

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    Steve Matthews has been in the job for 20 years and clearly isn't on top of it or they wouldn't need the scheme. Perhaps it's time for a new role for Stevie.

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    Parasites.
    Nothing other than income generation, hidden behind the propaganda of helping tenants who are already adequately protected in this regard

  • Greg Fuller

    Ha, basically saying we are fleecing landlords but don't want rising rents on our conscience to disfigure our flagship policy!

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    I had to reassure my lovely tenant I wasn’t going to evict him. Why worried? Because 3 families in his street have been evicted as their landlords sell up. Constricting supply is already increasing rents; expect significant rises now. Heaven help the HBen and just-about-managing tenants on the margins, those least able to cope with this. “And the weak suffer what they must”.

    I have supported regulation of the PRS for the last 30 years, but the blanket nature of this scheme does not meet the Better Regulation principles of being proportionate and targeted. And it seems enforcement is going to be a challenge, with massive non-compliance.

  • Andrew Hill

    Our clients in Nottingham have the right as business owners to cover the cost of doing business. Therefore, rents will rise to cover the increased costs of compliance and therefore the cost of doing business.

    If Notts City Council doesn't want increased rents on their conscience, they shouldn't be charging above the odds for the cost of licensing. Councils are generating profits from selective licensing to cover the cost of future enforcement. This is a speculative cost they're recovering from landlords and we it is a speculative cost, local authorities should not be looking to recover this from innocent landlords. They should use funds generated through fines and other enforcement methods to cover the cost of future enforcement.

    What's the point of landlord licensing anyway? What we need is a centralised register which, like gas safety checks, landlords are legally required to be part of. The register itself could operate as a redress scheme for tenants in private accommodation, after all, tenants can complain about agents but not their landlords in the same way.

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    Even after accreditation the licensing scheme cost me approximately £25 pcm with the fees increased admin and additional expenses. As this scheme is a expense I am now increasing all properties in the licensing area by £25pcm. These properties have not had a increase for 2 years and still haven’t except for the licensing costs. As it has been pointed out, this is a business, like supermarkets and shops I pass my expenses to the customer. If they don’t like it move or shop elsewhere. Other options are to help landlords fight this. All my tenants got letters explaining what was being proposed and how to register an objection yet non could be bothered so they to reap the benefits of licensing

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    All costs must be recouped,no matter where they come from,this is the life of business.
    Most councils in my opinion are run by clowns,all over paid.

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