A controversial private rental licensing regime that has already made the headlines for the wrong reasons has now been branded a farce by a leading lettings group.
Nottingham city council’s licensing system has so far managed to issue full licences to fewer than three per cent of the applications received, prompting derision from the Residential Landlords Association.
Just over a year ago Nottingham council extended existing licensing regimes to cover 90 per cent of the city’s private rental properties, adding up to some 32,000 homes: this made it the largest scheme by property volume outside of London.
Its introduction was controversial because thousands of applications by landlords were rejected because of what the council called “paperwork errors”; earlier this year, months after the scheme’s introduction, the council admitted some 17,000 properties remained unlicensed.
Licensing conditions include, amongst other things, landlords making sure they are trained in housing law.
Now the RLA says that figures provided to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee however show that by August 2019, whilst 17,523 applications for a licence had been received, just 472 final licences had been issued.
The council estimates that a total of 24,000 applications are eventually likely to be received.
The Residential Landlords Association is branding the painfully slow progress in processing applications a farce and has called on the council to scrap what it calls “this pointless scheme.”
The RLA points out that the issuing of a licence is not linked to any form of property inspection by the council meaning tenants cannot be sure that because their landlord is licenced the property meets all the required standards.
In addition, because there is no way of checking whether or not a licence application has been made, tenants cannot tell if their landlord has applied and is simply waiting for the ouncil to process the application or is flouting the law altogether.
As part of the General Election campaign the RLA is calling for all forms of landlord licensing schemes to be scrapped.
Instead, it wants councils to use the wide array of data they can already access such as from council tax returns, benefit and electoral roll data and information from the Land Registry to identify landlords.
It is further calling on councils such as Nottingham to spend more time and resources finding and rooting out criminal landlords rather than wasting resources tying good landlords up in bureaucratic knots.
“Nottingham Council cannot have it both ways. Either it believes landlord licences are important, in which case they should process applications promptly, or they do not, in which case they should scrap what amounts to a money making scheme” explains RLA policy director David Smith.
“The reality is that the council is targeting responsible landlords whilst doing nothing to find and root out bad landlords who will have no intention of applying for a licence. This is purely a money making bureaucratic exercise which will not benefit tenants in any way.”