Newham’s Universal Landlord Licensing Approach Not Popular with Local Authorities
Most housing options staff at the councils are not in favour of Newham’s universal landlords licensing scheme says David Lawrenson of LettingFocus.com
Many private landlords labour under the assumption that the local authorities are simply there to make life hard for them.
But actually that is not usually true: There are a lot of people at the councils who see their job as helping private landlords to do their job better and to build better relationships with them in order to be able to house people on the councils’ waiting lists.
A few weeks back I attended a meeting of the Association of Housing Advisory Services (AHAS). This is a body of housing options council people working in the local authorities, mostly drawn from London and the South East.
I was there to debate the Strategic Society report on the private rented sector – another in a long line of reports by numerous think tanks on our sector. The debate took place at the start of the day in front of the assembled council folk.
Afterwards, there was another meeting where the council people debated the various approaches towards regulating their local private rented sectors.
Four different speakers from the local authorities argued the merits of their different approaches to private landlords and the private rented sector.
One of the approaches was the Newham one – where there is pan borough landlord licensing and all landlords have to get a license. (Newham was unique in that they did not send any staff to the meeting, so another housing officer from a different council had to present the merits of the Newham approach).
Other approaches used by other councils were more “light touch” – from Southend’s one where the landlords themselves self regulate to Barnet’s which involves a multi-agency approach targeting just the rogue landlords and using a variety of different public agencies, whilst supporting the rest of the landlord community with advice about how to do their jobs better.
At the end of the series of presentations, the assembled audience of about 30 housing folk were asked to vote which scheme they liked best. There was a strong preference for the more light touch types of approach in which known rogue landlords were targeted or for landlord self-regulation.
Only one member of the audience out of the 30 voted for Newham’s scheme.
So, it seems that council staff who deal with housing options, day in and day out do not like universal landlord licensing either.
One attendee said, “Newham’s approach has made many landlords around the UK, really dislike the councils and it is making our job very much harder.”
Another said, “Really, the truth of these schemes is that they are political. Some members of councils (i.e. the elected councillors) think they can gain votes by making things hard for all landlords, not just the rogue landlords that we all want rid of. These councillors don’t understand that universal licensing costs a fortune and misses the target (the rogue landlords) whilst also upsetting the vast majority of law abiding landlords who simply cannot see why they are being asked to pay what they see as a levy, which they anyway pass straight onto the tenants as an increased rent.”
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