Liverpool council are looking at ways to improve the quality of the rented accommodation in the city, and may ask landlords to sign up to a new licensing scheme, similar to that in the London Borough of Newham.
There are over 50,000 rented properties in the city. The scheme would see all landlords agreeing to comply with a minimum set of standards. A breach of these standards could lead to a fine or a revocation of the license.
The proposal is part of Liverpool City Council’s three-year ‘Bringing Empty Homes Back Into Use’ programme, which aims to tackle void properties across Liverpool, deal with problem landlords and improve the standard of the city’s rented accommodation.
The council has pledged to work with the majority of responsible landlords, support their businesses and create a level playing field for all, while cracking down on those who do not manage their properties properly.
The council claims that its proposed licensing scheme would help to empower tenants who currently have no way of knowing the quality of their prospective landlord, and would protect residents who have suffered from neighbouring properties being bought by landlords who have then let them to undesirable tenants.
There is currently a compulsory licensing scheme for the 1,250 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in the city, which the council says has driven an improvement in standards and property management.
The HMO licensing scheme sees landlords paying a license fee to cover operating costs. The licensed HMO must be reasonably suitable for occupation, have a license holder of manager who is a fit and proper person, have satisfactory management arrangements and comply with set standards and licence conditions.
A fine of £20,000 can be imposed for controlling or managing an unlicensed HMO. A breach of licence conditions can carry a fine of up to £5,000 and licences can be revoked where there is a serious breach of licence conditions.
Formal consultation on the city council’s plans will begin this month and will last for 12 weeks. Groups to be consulted include landlords and landlord associations; residents and residents associations; private tenants; advice agencies; Registered Housing Providers; and ward members.
Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Ann O’Byrne, said: “It’s vital that we do all we can to work with landlords across Liverpool to drive up the quality of our private rented properties. Many areas which suffer blight in the city are characterised by large numbers of poorly managed private rented properties, leading to problems such as anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping. The proposed licensing scheme would recognise the majority of good landlords who manage their properties properly, while enabling us to deal with the minority who choose not to engage with us, and whose letting and management practices are poor. Licensing would create a minimum standard for the private rented sector, with landlords needing to show that they have adequate systems in place for their tenants – for example, to report repairs and defects. It would also enable tenants to be confident in their choice to rent, and neighbours to be confident in landlords’ ability to effectively manage their properties. We believe this scheme would be really beneficial for the city, but we will be consulting closely with landlords, tenants, residents and other stakeholders over the coming months, to make sure their views are fully taken on-board.”
On the 1 January, the London Borough of Newham became the first council to bring in mandatory licensing for private rented properties across the entire borough. It was introduced in response to high levels of antisocial behaviour associated with rented property, and rogue landlords carrying out illegal conversions of properties without planning or building control approval.