LETTING & ESTATE AGENT

Make it easier for councils to introduce licensing, says new report

Make it easier for councils to introduce licensing, says new report

It should be made easier for local councils to introduce compulsory licensing schemes of all rental properties, or mandatory landlord accreditation schemes.

The call has come jointly from a policy think tank, the Local Government Information Unit, and the Electrical Safety Council.

Their new report wants red tape to be cut, and suggests amending the 2004 Housing Act so that councils can introduce licensing schemes on the basis of poor housing conditions.

The report also wants councils to be given more powers to recoup the costs of enforcement, and allow them to introduce compulsory accreditation of all private landlords.

The recommendations are based on a survey of 178 councils and interviews with local housing teams.

The two bodies say that central government bureaucracy is undermining the ability of councils to tackle poor standards in the private rented sector.

Their House Proud report says the rapid growth of the private rented sector has created challenges, with 35% of properties failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard. It says the Government should hand councils the freedom to deal with problems in the sector as they think fit.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, said: “Whilst the majority of the private rented sector properties meet appropriate standards, a minority of landlords actively pursue criminal activity to the detriment of those living in their properties.
 
“Councils can play a key role in tackling poor standards in the private rented sector, but to do this effectively they must be freed from central government red tape. There is no one-size-fits-all model. Rather, local authorities must be given the freedom and capacity to respond to the needs and issues in their areas.”

Phil Buckle, director general of the ESC, said: “With increasing numbers of people renting privately, it is imperative that proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety. For example, although it’s recognised that electrical accidents cause over half of Great Britain’s domestic fires, landlords are not required to have the electrics in their rented properties checked – or provide tenants with safety certificates.
 
“And, while we would like to see additional safety requirements for the PRS at a national level, we wholeheartedly support empowering local councils to address the safety of housing in their areas.

“We’ve been working with proactive councils such as Newham to discuss their approach to safety in the private rented sector, and intend to do so more widely.”

Asked for further clarification by LAT, a spokesperson confirmed: “Our key call is for councils to have increased powers by having the licensing procedure relaxed.

“Newham had to go through an extremely detailed process to be able to introduce licensing for the entire borough.

“At the moment, the law states that this sort of measure can only be brought in for areas which are a ‘special case’ – which Newham had to prove covered the entire borough, at some cost.

“We would like councils to be freed up from such a time (and cost) intensive process, which many would argue is problematic for all but the most determined councils. 

“Accreditation is more likely to register a person / landlord than a property, as is the case with licensing, and could allow  a much lighter touch – such as getting landlords signed up to the National Landlords Association or an existing scheme.”

Asked whether the report was calling for the consultation process to be cut down before a compulsory licensing scheme could be introduced, the spokesperson said this was not the case.