If you heard a collective sigh of relief in the Bournemouth area this week it is from the news that Bournemouth Council have rejected plans to introduce a Selective Licensing scheme in the areas of Boscombe East, Boscombe West, East Cliff and Springbourne.
A Bournemouth Council cabinet meeting held last week decided to not pursue a Selective Licensing scheme, at this time, but agreed to develop a “targeted enforcement approach” to address the housing issues Bournemouth is experiencing in the PRS.
This is a positive sign for landlords all over the country. It often feels like the announcement of a licensing consultation is an almost definite sign that licensing will be introduced.
This also serves as reassurance that at least some councils are listening to the views, opinions, and experiences of the private sector letting agents and landlords, and are carefully considering what the best course of action for both tenants and landlords is.
In the original consultation announcement Councillor Robert Lawton, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:
“Reducing levels of anti-social behaviour and improving housing standards is a high priority for the Council and forms part of the housing regeneration work taking place in the area.
We believe that a Selective Licensing Scheme may be an effective way of tackling these priorities but we are keen to understand the views of local residents, landlords and other stakeholders on the proposals.”
The rejected scheme had a consultation period of 16 weeks between 1 January 2017 – 8th May 2017. If it had been approved, a single licence would have set landlords back £472 per property.
Selective Licensing applies to all private rented sector houses that are not licensed under HMO licensing, this includes non licensable HMOs. An area may be designated for selective licensing either (i) if the area is (or is likely to be) an area of low housing demand or (ii) the area is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti social behaviour that local authorities attribute to private sector landlords failing to take action to combat against unruly tenants. A designation can last up to five years.
As part of the licence, the holders of the licence will be required to comply with licensing conditions, some of which are mandatorily imposed by the Housing Act, and local licensing conditions from the council itself.
The RLA made an official response to Bournemouth Council, opposing the scheme.
Within the response I outlined the lack of evidence that private rented houses are the main perpetrators of anti-social behaviour, the radical difference between the areas they were proposing, and the little evidence there is that licensing schemes improve housing standards.
I warned the council that they are risking the licensing fees being passed onto tenants, increased eviction of challenging tenants, and the risk posed to properties outside the licensed areas.
There are several alternatives to licensing. Our suggestions included; a cross departmental and multi-agency effective use of existing housing legislation, using council tax registration to identify private rented properties and landlords, and a co-regulation scheme that deals with standards and complaints in the first instance, while those outside the scheme remain under the scope of local authority enforcement.
We are very pleased to hear the Bournemouth are showing their dedication to enforcement, and we aim to help them in any way we can.
Enforcement is vital to improving the private rented market and shows that Bournemouth are not just implementing a bureaucratic superficial licensing scheme, but are serious about tracking down and stopping criminal landlords.
Well done Bournemouth!