A trade body has accused the government of going back on its promise not to introduce a national register of landlords.
The government has given broad support to a set of recommendations proposed in an independent review of selective licensing - one controversial recommendation is the introduction of a landlord register.
Although the government has not gone the full way to say it will implement the proposals, it has given broad backing; a final decision will be made by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the autumn.
However, the Residential Landlords Association has got its retaliation in first with an attack on the government.
Responding to the recommendation, RLA policy manager John Stewart says: “Ministers have repeatedly made clear a national register of landlords would become an unnecessary and costly additional layer of bureaucracy. We agree. All it would become is a list of good landlords which brings us no closer to finding the crooks that operate under the radar.”
Only last year housing minister Heather Wheeler told the Commons that: “The government does not support a mandatory register of private landlords. The majority of landlords provide decent and well managed accommodation and requiring those landlords to sign up to a national register would introduce an unnecessary and costly additional layer of bureaucracy.”
And responding to the rest of the report, the RLA’s Stewart adds: “Selective licensing has become a replacement for lost central government funding and provides no assurances to tenants about the quality of accommodation.
“Properties do not need to be inspected before a landlord is given a licence and the RLA has found that many councils are charging eye-watering sums of money for almost nothing in return.
“Local authorities need the will and the resources to put real effort into finding the criminal landlords who never come forward to make themselves known.
“That means using a range of information they can already access including council tax returns, information on tenancy deposits and benefit data to root out the minority of landlords who bring the sector into disrepute.”
The National Landlords Association is also critical of the recommendations, saying they are evidence that the government is unwilling to listen to landlords.
“Far too often we see local authorities failing to live up to their side of selective licensing. It’s shameful that the review has ignored our call for regular reporting against schemes’ published objectives, which would be easy to implement and would actually hold councils to account” explains Richard Lambert, NLA chief executive.
“The majority of selective licensing schemes are introduced without any thought having been given to their implementation, funding and enforcement, leading to good landlords paying for effectively nothing. For the most part, selective licensing has failed to root out the bad landlords and the recommendations in the report will do very little to change that.”
This is just the first announcement in what is expected to be a summer of change as more details are to be announced shortly on landlords being required by law to join a redress scheme and on qualifications being required for new estate and letting agents.
As ever with the government, it’s all change for the agency industry.