I have had some experience of selective licensing and know the amount of ill-will this generated with landlords who previously had worked well with the local authority. I have completed consultations and surveys on behalf of the organisation I work with for my ‘day-job’ and whilst understanding that the questions that are asked are always worded so that the conclusion must always point to the need for licensing, I always make it clear that I am convinced that licensing is the answer which will raise standards and assist tenants.
I was therefore horrified when I heard that from 1st April 2015, there would be mandatory licensing for every private rented property in Liverpool (Liverpool were lucky to get this in as any delay would probably have meant it would be affected by the new legislation that limited licensing schemes to 20% of either the sector or the geographic area). The extent of this scheme would surely be met with the same outrage expressed by other landlords affected by licensing schemes?
Well, apparently not, if Liverpool City Council are to be believed. They are very pleased with the response they have had, stating that more than 8,000 landlords, who own or manage about 36,500 properties, have so far registered for the first part of the application process. This could generate an income of £14,600,000, though there are discounts for multiple properties and membership of accredited landlord schemes, such as CLASS, the Liverpool accreditation scheme. CLASS has had a significant increase with over 8,500 new properties registering for membership, quite probably because of the incentive of a discount on the licensing fee.
Not only have they had a good response to the scheme, but Liverpool’s record keeping is exceptional. They are aware of 500 landlords who have not yet made an application. They will be receiving letters advising them to sign up as soon as possible or face the penalties. As the problem experienced by many authorities has been the number of landlords who are ‘under the radar’ and therefore difficult to pursue or even to have a definite number of properties there are in the private rented sector.
The reverse of the picture is of agents threatening to withdraw from the sector, some saying that Investors are re-considering investment in Liverpool. Whilst the concerns raised about licensing make this an understandable reaction, it seems short-sighted. The schemes are only introduced when there are concerns about lack of demand for properties, reflected in high voids and significant anti-social behaviour, so the schemes should raise property values in the long-term, which can only be a good thing.
Perhaps those landlords who have been positive about licensing have felt less aggrieved, because all landlords have been treated the same, but perhaps the very reasonable licensing fee has also had an effect. £400 per property will still be a heavy weight for some, but is significantly less than other local authorities have asked. Perhaps that is a lesson that other local authorities could learn.
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