The recent selective licensing review, released by the UK Government, received major backlash from property associations such as the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), ARLA Propertymark and the National Landlords Association (NLA).
The review backs the creation of a national landlord register, which the Government claims will provide simple access to data about who should or shouldn’t have a license. Despite the recommended reforms being described as an “effective policy tool”, some are concerned it will push up costs and increase red tape for landlords.
Detrimental to “good” landlords
The RLA was disappointed with the recommendations, stating that they could harm those they are designed to help. In their view, this could affect landlords providing good-quality homes to rent, while “criminal” landlords, offering sub-standard homes, could ignore the requirements and continue to operate below the radar. This was presented by the RLA, in a recent press release.
ARLA Propertymark echoed these sentiments in their own reaction to the review, believing that it represented a “U-turn” in government policy since Heather Wheeler, now Housing Minister, answered a parliamentary question on the matter back in February 2018.
In her answer, Ms Wheeler said: “The Government does not support a mandatory register of private landlords. The majority of landlords provide decent and well-managed accommodation and requiring those landlords to sign up to a national register would introduce an unnecessary and costly additional layer of bureaucracy.”
The NLA, who have also passed judgement on the selective licensing review, believes that the recommendations didn’t include anything to close loopholes, which currently allow those who fail the “fit and proper” test, to continue operating in other areas or through a letting agent.
The NLA also argued that the review ignored its suggestion of requiring local authorities to conduct an annual assessment, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the scheme against the rationale for their introduction.
John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA, commented: “Selective licensing has become a replacement for lost central government funding and provides no assurances to tenants about the quality of accommodation. Properties do not need to be inspected before a landlord is given a licence and the RLA has found that many councils are charging eye-watering sums of money for almost nothing in return.”
Mr Stewart concluded that local authorities need the will and resources to put real effort into finding the “criminal” landlords who never come forward to make themselves known. That means using the information they already have access to, including council tax returns and information on tenancy deposits, to root out landlords who bring the sector into disrepute.
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, commented: “It’s disappointing that the long-awaited review on selective licensing recommends the continuation of the schemes. Licensing schemes do not work, and never will. They are not an effective way of promoting higher-quality accommodation and introducing landlord registration will not be the silver bullet to improve the effectiveness of property licensing. Local authorities need investment to enforce the wide range of legislation that already exists.”
Opportunity for Property MOT
Mr Cox suggested that the Government should instead take this as an opportunity to introduce a Property MOT, which would cover all elements of property condition, energy efficiency and other legal requirements.
Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA commented: “Far too often, we see local authorities failing to live up to their side of selective licensing. It’s shameful that the review has ignored our call for regular reporting against the schemes’ published objectives, which would be easy to implement and actually hold councils to account.”
Mr Lambert said that the majority of selective licensing schemes are introduced without any thought given to their implementation, funding and enforcement, leading to good landlords paying for effectively nothing. Selective licensing has failed to root out the bad landlords and the recommendations in the report will do very little to change that, Mr Lambert concluded.