Before the turn of the new year the RLA submitted responses to two consultation responses on selective licensing for Gannow, Queensgate & Duke Bar areas of Burnley.
As with the majority of licensing schemes throughout the country, the RLA opposes the scheme and outlined various arguments against the scheme, some of which are concerns the RLA has with licensing schemes in general and others which are Burnley specific.
The RLA argue that local authorities already have enough powers to enforce standards in the private rented sector. Licensing does not empower them further and often misses out on capturing the very people it looks to sanction.
In many cases, Burnley being an example, licensing is used to raise the standards of privately rented properties by charging a licensing fee to allow landlords to conduct their business which will go onto funding enforcement and in some cases training and engagement courses. However, because of a recent ruling of the Hemming (t/a Simply Pleasure) Limited v Westminster City Council court of Appeal case and the European Service Directive (ESD) mandates it is not permissible for a council to make a profit on costs of licences. This means that a council can only charge the actual administrative cost of processing licence applications.
This means that the majority of the time will be spent on bureaucratic procedures rather than monitoring and enforcement. Charging good landlords to run their properties is the only end game here.
Burnley Council argues that the designated areas for selective licensing in the area have been designed to help reducing the number of anti-social behaviour incidents.
The RLA stance is that selective licensing is ineffective at reducing incidents of anti-social behaviour. Firstly, landlords are not responsible for the behaviour of tenants and attempting to impose a licensing scheme on them to resolve anti-social behaviour will not work; a stance that the House of Commons echo (Anti social neighbours in private housing” (2013) House of Commons Library, p.3, para.1.1.).
Other concerns include:
- With the high level of licence fees, costs could be passed down onto the tenants.
- Licensing is not being used alongside regeneration or improvement of the relevant areas. Insufficient resources are being employed to improve the areas.
- We believe that a significant number of landlords are still operating under the radar without being licensed
- Where areas are designated for additional or selective licensing this highlights that they can be “sink” areas. This could well mean it would be harder to obtain a mortgage to buy a property in these areas
- Schemes are not laying down clear objectives to enable decisions to be made whether or not these have been achieved. Proper monitoring is not being put into place to see if schemes are successful or not.
- There is little use of “fit and proper person” powers to exclude bad landlords
The above is just a sample of one of the full response documents that we have sent Burnley, though our arguments against licensing are fairly standard in most instances.
The RLA has received confirmation from Burnley Council that they will consider our arguments and we look forward to their conclusions.
In the meantime, the RLA will continue to monitor, advise, and respond to any and all consultations that we become aware of. If you have any experiences or questions about licensing in your area please get in touch and we will do what we can to help.