Plans to renew and extend a selective licensing scheme in Wirral have been opposed by the RLA.
Wirral Council has put forward plans to re-designate four existing selective licensing areas that are due to expire at the end of June 2020. These areas include Birkenhead South, Egerton North, Egremont Promenade South and Seacombe Library.
In addition to this, the council also wants to extend selective licensing to include the areas of Egremont South and Tranmere Lairds.
This means that landlords in these areas would be required to pay £645 to obtain a licence in order to lawfully rent out their property.
The RLA’s consultation response
The RLA has objected to plans to renew and expand the licensing scheme, arguing that the Council already has the necessary tools in order to tackle poor housing management, granted to them under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Housing Act 2004. This includes the ability to issue civil penalty notices and banning orders.
Rather than introducing bureaucratic licensing schemes, the RLA says that the Council should make full use of the powers already available to them, not least because the focus of council staff would become processing licences, rather than improving property conditions.
Concerns about the fee structure
Wirral Council is proposing to charge landlords:
- A £50 fee if they want to pay the licensing fee in installments,
- A £50 fee if landlords want to submit a paper-based application, instead of an electronic application
The RLA believes this to be potentially unlawful, because the Housing Act 2004 states that a fee must reflect the cost of running a scheme, and the local authority is not permitted to make a profit.
Therefore, if this licensing scheme does get the go-ahead, the RLA is calling on the council to remove these additional fees.
What is selective licensing?
For a local authority to declare a selective licensing area the area must be –
- An area of low housing demand and/or
- An area affected by anti-social behaviour where the private landlords have failed to take steps to control anti-social behaviour by their tenants.