Tom Reynolds gives us his take on the opportunities and threats when it comes to working with local authorities.
We have all heard about the Government’s ‘Localism Agenda’, empowering town halls, encouraging city mayors etc. but very few people ever stop to think about what its impact will be on them, or their business.
Landlords, more than many other individuals or businesses, have to interact with local agencies frequently – so often that we don’t even realise it. Whether it’s the quarterly visit to the local dump to get rid of some furniture left behind by a former tenant, completing various council tax forms, applying for a selective license or reporting anti-social behaviour, we regularly engage with our councils and the services they provide.
But times have changed, and what we have to realise as landlords in today’s environment is that local authorities are very hard pressed. There are further redundancies being announced on a weekly basis and the majority of authorities are making the deepest cuts in their private rented sectors.
Despite the cuts, the personnel that are left are still expected to reach their targets relating to the provision of housing to the local residents. At the same time, there is also an increasing need for quality housing that the local authorities cannot meet with their own housing stock.
You would expect, wouldn’t you, that local authorities would make it very easy for landlords to work with them to provide additional accommodation to minimise the problem, but no, more and more authorities are turning to selective licensing and additional licensing, not to mention article four directives, which are being eagerly promoted across the country.
Whatever the political motivations are out there, it is evident that local authorities are in their worst position ever to meet the housing needs that prevail. So why is it not obvious to them that licensing measures are going to antagonise private landlords rather than to encourage them?
There are a lot of landlords who will not feel very sympathetic towards the needs of local authority officers. But we shouldn’t let this antipathy overshadow the opportunity which presents itself for responsible landlords.
The need to have landlords working with local authorities is going to rise in the near and foreseeable future. Some authorities are already offering progressive schemes to the private sector such as bond schemes and private sector leasing schemes. These types of schemes show how much private landlords are needed to supply housing to tenants who would normally be housed in the public sector.
There are only a few authorities that offer progressive schemes and each scheme is different from the others. This means that some are much better than others.
Many authorities offer regular landlord forums to give landlords information on whatever services are available within their authority region. The NLA also work with many authorities to ensure all landlords are as up to date as possible.
The best way for a landlord to work with a local authority is to join a landlord association and add to the voice of the collective band of landlords in the country. By working together we can influence Government policy and subsequently the local authorities throughout the UK.
What is your experience of working with your Local Authority? Tell us about it…