Landlords in the city of Liverpool are rejoicing after the Government stepped in to scrap the renewal of the City Council’s city-wide licensing scheme.
Originally the licensing scheme was introduced in 2015 and determined that all private landlords must obtain a licence for each of their rented properties. Controversially, this decision was brought about by the local council under the judgement that Liverpool was an area of ‘low demand’. If this sounds surprising, that’s because it is.
The Residential Landlord Association’s Policy Manager John Stewert explained that the council’s own statistics could not justify the scheme on the basis of low demand as increasing house prices and decreased void periods across many areas point to exactly the opposite conclusion.
The Government’s final decision to reject the renewal of the legislation was based on a judgement that the application for renewal contained no robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand in the city.
The point of the scheme was to crack down on rogue landlords and encourage them to take due care over the accommodation they’re offering to tenants. In fact, Liverpool council said it had carried out more than 37,000 compliance actions and prosecuted nearly 250 landlords over the last 5 years. A substantial 70% of inspected properties in the city had been found to be in breach of their licensing conditions.
However, the challenge, raised by the Residential Landlord’s Association, includes among other points the claim that most of these ‘breaches’ are plainly regarding administrative errors, including a failure to be in possession of paperwork. This finding was made by the RLA after they submitted a Freedom of Information Request to Liverpool City Council.
Furthermore, there is suspicion about the extra financial burden the licence places on landlords, especially in conjunction with government plans to remove mortgage interest relief, wear and tear allowance and make changes to the Tenant Fees Act. The RLA claims the new licence will cost an extra, and unjustified, £100.
Perhaps most fundamentally, the RLA suggests that evidence shows licensing is not needed across the city. Many wards do not have high figures for hazards. It’s important to note the suggestion here that the objection is not necessarily to Landlord Licensing in principle, but to the city-wide instantiation of it in this case.
There is, of course, a concern among many that refusing the renewal application is potentially harmful to many renters and especially the most vulnerable people in Liverpool. Many people see this as the redoubled Conservative Government falling at a first hurdle in their so called commitment to cracking down on bad landlords, as well as a London minister interfering in regional issues.
Only time will tell what effect this will have on the standard of rental property and the protection of tenants in Liverpool.