The RLA have today, March 24th 2014, submitted a response to consultation proposals to implement a selective licensing scheme in parts of Rotherham. The consultation bases proposals on apparent anti-social behaviour (ASB) of tenants and empty properties. The RLA argues that the proof behind this consultation is unconvincing and suggests that there are alternatives preferable to selective licensing.
The consultation documents for Rotherham’s proposals made an unconvincing read for the RLA and at times the consultation document undermined the thrust of its own reasoning. For example:
“In relation to ASB, an initial analysis shows that in 2012/13 there was a reduction in incidents recorded by the Council from 11.7 to 10.7 incidents for every thousand people across the Borough.”
As anti-social behaviour (ASB) is one of the two main reasons for selective licensing in Rotherham the RLA believes that the council should continue to pursue current programs to reduce these instances. Additionally, if the area in question is closer to the centre of town it is reasonable to expect higher levels of ASB than in more residential areas. This has been highlighted in the RLA’s consultation.
When responding to selective licensing consultations the RLA is always sure to emphasis the role and responsibilities that the tenants and landlords hold towards each other and the property. The House of Commons Library released a standard note “Anti-social neighbours in private housing” in 2013 which 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.”
Rotherham council say in their consultation:
“Admittedly, it is not feasible for landlords to tackle crime and ASB they have no direct control over, however, regular checks on properties, better letting practices, ensuring proper tenancy agreements are in place and making sure that tenants are advised of their responsibilities early are all achievable and reasonable actions that all landlords could take.”
Selective licensing does not need to be implemented to achieve better management of properties by private landlords in Rotherham. The RLA proposes alternatives such as accreditation, tenant education, and working with good landlords to ensure that criminal landlords are rooted out; tenants understand their responsibilities and landlords are not de-incentivised to invest in properties in Rotherham.
Rotherham council want to charge landlords over £600 for a licence and have an inspection system over the course of 5 years for the licensing scheme:
“To reduce the burden on landlords, in addition to the initial licensing inspection, the inspection compliance programme for the scheme, will be designed over the 5 year period to cover a prioritised sample of only around half of all licenced properties.”
From the RLA’s point of view, if Rotherham is aware of properties that will be inspected it would make more sense to target these first and foremost rather than burdening landlords with extra responsibilities.
The RLA waits for the Council on whether or not they intend to proceed with the scheme.