Westminster City Council this week joined councils like Bournemouth, Manchester and Leeds; in rejecting the idea of landlord licensing as a credible means of improving the private rented sector.
Giving evidence on Monday to the select committee for communities and local government, Cllr. Jonathan Glanz, cabinet member for housing at Westminster, was scathing in his view of licensing said, “We find that we are able to do that [enforce standards] within existing legislative frameworks, rather than by imposing upon the large majority of good landlords additional obligations to comply with the proposals that might arise out of a further regulatory framework, which could come from a compulsory licensing scheme.”
Cllr. Glanz also claimed, that it was “often the case” that good landlords, “…end up effectively paying for the problems that have been caused by the non-compliant landlords, on whom we think it is more appropriate to concentrate.”
He was also particularly critical of licensing schemes for their inability to make non-compliant landlords comply. He said, “You assume that those people who, in the past, have evidenced no willingness to get involved in being open and transparent in relation to their dealings are then going to say that they will comply with this licence, when they are not complying with electricity legislation, gas legislation and all sorts of other legislation. I do not think that there is any natural assumption that they will then go ahead and comply with an additional set of regulations relating to their operation under a licensing scheme.”
Cllr. Glanz also registered his disapproval of the term ‘rogue landlord’, claiming it made individuals appear to be “likeable rogues”. He said, “It is more appropriate to describe bad landlords as criminal landlords. The legislation that is in place in relation to their obligations to comply with regulations in respect of gas, electricity or the holding of deposits is, in fact, broadly criminal legislation, and therefore their failure to comply with it makes them more appropriately described as criminal landlords.”
Cllr. Glanz was giving evidence to the select committee’s inquiry into the private rented sector, the results of which are due to be published later this year.
Westminster’s position echoes the attitude of a growing number of local authorities – such as Manchester, Leeds and Bournemouth – who are rejecting licensing in favour of progressing their local landlord accreditation schemes; which allow landlords to self-regulate and local authorities to concentrate their efforts on tackling criminal landlords. This is a position supported by the RLA, which has long argued that local authorities have enough powers to deal with issues relating to the private rented sector, and that licensing is another layer of bureaucracy that simply does not work.