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Landlord Licensing Scheme won’t work – say Lib Dems

January 9, 2015

hbcHastings Borough council have recently closed a public consultation on a licensing scheme for private sector landlords across the Borough.

Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly support the aims of the proposed licensing scheme as set out in the preamble to the consultation, however we do not believe that the scheme as proposed has any chance of successfully achieving the expressed aims.

The consultation document and the event organised by Generation Rent at the White Rock Hotel on 25 November have both demonstrated that the Council has failed to engage with private sector landlords in a meaningful way; and has missed an opportunity to develop a coalition of stakeholders supporting excellent housing standards for Hastings in the private rented sector.

The private rented sector accounts for 30% of the housing capacity of a Borough that is facing a serious challenge to provide sufficient adequate housing for local residents.

There is no indication that HBC has done any research into other such schemes across the country, to test whether license schemes have unintended outcomes in respect of encouraging private landlords ‎to sell their properties or to leave properties empty.

It is clear to us that a reduction in the Borough’s housing capacity could present HBC and associated agencies (including East Sussex County Council social services and the NHS) with considerable difficulties in respect of burgeoning housing demand for vulnerable individuals and families.

The licensing scheme as proposed is estimated to cost £3.5m over 5 years, however there is no breakdown of this figure which is solely for the administration of the scheme‎.

The scheme and the license fee has no enforcement dimension.‎ HBC offers nothing to private landlords via their putative license, other than the obviation of prosecution.

The local authority already has powers to enforce against criminal landlords should it choose to do so.

Social landlords as well as p‎rivate landlords must be required to adhere to Decent Homes standards in the Borough.

Licensing schemes such as the one proposed by HBC are allowable under the Housing Act 2004 on the grounds of reducing anti-social behaviour. There is little or no evidence to demonstrate how the scheme will address this key issue.

Private sector landlords attending‎ the Generation Rent debate seemed to give an indication that, overwhelmingly, they would be willing to register with the Council as a provider of private rented accommodation on a no-cost basis.

The Council would need to find a way to prosecute those landlords who failed to register with such a scheme, and who continued to provide sub-standard private-rented accommodation in Hastings and St Leonards.

Enforcement appears to be the key issue in respect of achieving adequate housing standards, and the Council must derive a budget for this, and offer a variety of potential income streams, including via a hypothecated rise in ‎Council Tax.

The Council also needs to demonstrate that it has a vision to build more affordable housing in the Borough, and send the message that providing Decent Homes can only be done by creating a coalition of the willing – including Council Tax payers.

We support the expressed aims of the licensing scheme but we want a scheme that will deliver. Unfortunately, this is not it.

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3 Comments
  1. sam courtney permalink

    Hastings Borough Council are absolutely correct; what business is it of slum private landlords?. They are only in it for the money; they should be strictly monitored, and do what they are told.

    • nickperrylibdem permalink

      Thanks for your comment Sam. Sadly I think you have missed the whole point of our main criticism of the proposed scheme. It has no teeth. It cannot and will not make anyone do anything.

  2. Iyour opinion on the newly proposed landlord laws
    You say it won’t work. Period.
    You say the council already has the power to prosecute landlords.
    The council play lip service to private landlords.
    The condition of nearly 50% of private housing stock in hastings were recently found to below the decent home standard. Many cases of tenant complaints over living conditions. Many retaliatory evictions.
    There are landlords that abuse their position,some sort of license is necessary.
    Since the rouge landlord office came into being in Hastings there has been many improvements carried out.
    These improvements I suggest would not have been carried out if not for someone giving orders to landlords.
    I personally know of a very big landlord who would not spend a farthing unless forced to do so.

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