It can be done - a council has U-turned on plans for a licensing scheme for landlords.
The move by Hounslow council follows representations by the Residential Landlords Association and Safeagent, formerly known as the National Approved Letting Scheme.
In July the council’s cabinet agreed to proceed with plans for an additional licensing scheme for landlords but the RLA threatened the council with judicial review on the basis that the consultation it ran to establish the scheme was flawed in a number of respects.
- It failed to provide any information upon which the plans for the scheme were being made;
- No information was provided to prove the ineffective management of Houses of Multiple Occupation for which such schemes are generally used;
- It failed to outline, as is required by law, how such a licencing scheme would be consistent with the council’s housing strategy and what conclusions the councils had reached about potential alternative ways of addressing the problems this scheme was seeking to address;
- Whilst the consultation proposed that the scheme be adopted across the whole Borough it made reference to applying it across a smaller area without giving respondents to the consultation any information about what this might look like. This gave the clear impression that the Council had made up its mind before the consultation began;
- Although much of the information about the above was presented to the Council’s cabinet, these papers could not be found on the authority’s website for respondents to access.
The council’s lawyers have now contacted the RLA to confirm that it will not take forward the decision to introduce the additional licencing scheme, and will reconsider the way forward, including carrying out a new consultation.
RLA policy director David Smith says: “We welcome today’s news. Hounslow council had failed to consult on its plans properly. We are glad that they have had the courage to admit this and think again.
“Rather than seeking to re-consult on its proposals, the council should consider the reality that they can already access a wealth of information on landlords from council tax returns, tenancy deposit schemes and the electoral roll. Instead of tying up good landlords with red tape whilst the criminals continue operating under the radar, the council needs to develop proper enforcement strategies focussed on rooting out those who bring the sector into disrepute. Licensing does not achieve this.”
And safeagent chief executive Isobel Thomson adds: “It is important that councils do not just automatically view licensing as the panacea for all ills in the private rental sector. There are other existing options at their disposal which could be used more sensibly and would not involve the cost or the level of administration that licensing does.”