In response to NLA Representative, Richard Blanco’s blog post about selective licencing in East London, Sharon Crossland of Leasehold Life has a different opinion to share…
Whilst I don’t want to get involved in the potentially legal quagmire of having to determine whether the Mayor of Newham’s opinion of the borough being selective is reason enough to extend such licencing, the view that licencing simply punishes good landlords is over-simplistic.
Firstly, getting councils to use their existing enforcement powers fails to affect the vast majority of private landlords because of the simple fact that selective licencing has received hardly any uptake (around 13 out of 300 local authorities) and the only other residential properties that are required to be licensed are Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) . Therefore, by default, landlords of these properties are already required to work closely with local authorities, but what about the rest of the sector?
The lower end of the Private Rental Sector (PRS) in which I work is riddled with landlords who DON’T want to learn, let alone change, and they THRIVE in the fact that they can operate outside of the council’s radar. This visibility issue is one that the Rugg Review proposals sought to address. So, before I again hear the argument that a licence will penalise the good landlords, and that education and accreditation is the way forward, please spare me.
I have a particularly nasty so-called ‘rogue’ landlord on my private block. The council issued a Prohibition Order Notice on it which rendered the flat unfit for human habitation. There is no electricity and it has a Category 1 Fire Hazard due to the fact that the tenant is an alcoholic and uses candles for light. He is also in charge of a gas ring. Unfortunately the Notice wasn’t actually enforced and so he is still in situ whilst the council deliberate as to whether to prosecute the landlord for breaching the Notice.
Incidentally, this same “industry professional” was convicted of being a slum landlord by Newham Council last year and fined £8,000. If licencing had been in place I could have linked Walthan Forest Council to Newham a lot quicker than finding the link between the two on the internet. This lack of licencing demonstrates how such landlords are able to operate with impunity across boroughs with no one being any the wiser.
It is only through my knowledge of the PRS that I can approach my local authority for assistance under certain elements of landlord and tenant legislation but taking the legislation to its conclusion is very time intensive because I work across two sectors.
Whilst some landlords don’t want to be licenced, many DO. Licencing could be crucial in preventing landlords from providing little or no information from the outset. At present, the Land Registry makes no provision that the name and address of the landlord be supplied at the time the property for let is purchase. Similarly, covenants of the lease are often ignored and if the landlord choses to use dodgy letting agents, the tenant may not even know who their landlord is.
If we are to weed out rogue landlords, mandatory licencing could be the way forward.