After scores of councils across the country have introduced selective licensing, one has bucked the trend and after extensive consultation decided against such a regime.
Sandwell council in the west Midlands held a six-week consultation on whether to introduce a licensing scheme for private landlords in six areas of the borough; invitations to respond were sent to 15,000 people and some 300 – including 154 landlords and letting agents, 127 residents and 13 businesses –responded.
The council says the resulting information “did not show a strong enough link between anti-social behaviour and privately-rented homes for it to go ahead.”
Now council chiefs have pledged to use other measures to step up action against irresponsible private landlords who allow their homes to fall into disrepair.
A council spokesman says: "There are a lot of good private landlords in Sandwell who recognise their responsibilities and care about their tenants - but we need to do more to deal with the minority who don't.”
The council is now going to focus on enforcement action against landlords with homes in a poor state of repair, and work with non-council bodies to identify anti-social behaviour, eyesore properties and litter associated with the private rented sector in the area.
The Residential Landlords’ Association made a specific response to Sandwell’s consultation, drawing on a House of Commons library report ruling out a link between landlords and the alleged anti-social behaviour of tenants – as cited to justify licensing by Sandwell council and many other local authorities.
The RLA response included these two key paragraphs which may be useful for campaigns resisting licensing elsewhere:
As a House of Commons briefing note recently stated: “As a general rule, landlords are not responsible for the actions of their tenants as long as they have not ‘authorised’ the anti-social behaviour. Despite having the power to seek a court order for eviction when tenants exhibit anti-social behaviour, private landlords are free to decide whether or not to take action against their tenants. The question of whether a landlord can be held liable for the nuisance of its tenants has been considered in a number of cases.
“It is established that no claim can be sustained in nuisance where the nuisance is caused by an extraordinary use of the premises concerned, for example by the tenants being noisy or using drugs on the premises. The rationale behind this approach is that it is up to the victim of the nuisance to take action against the perpetrator. To found an action in negligence against a landlord the victim must show that there has been a breach of a duty of care owed by the alleged perpetrator.”