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Is landlord licensing a pointless exercise?

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Is landlord licencing a pointless exerciseIt’s time for me to share some controversial views on why I believe landlord licensing to be a pointless exercise I think.

Now don’t get me wrong, I hate the fact that a very small minority of bad landlords have earned our profession a bad reputation. However, it appears they might be a necessary evil too.

Allow me to explain.

What’s more important, a safe house or a safe car?

What’s more important to deal with, a woman driving at 5mph over the speed limit whilst taking her kids to school or a street full of over crowded houses and people living in beds in sheds?

Hopefully all readers will come to the same conclusion.

Now let’s look at the reality, which does most resource go into policing?

My point is this, if your car has bits dropping off it and the lights and indicators don’t work the Police will soon pull you over won’t they?

The Councils and the Police know where these dangerous and over crowded properties are but they don’t take action but why?

My conclusion is that Councils are motivated by their budgets. If they make a prosecution it costs them money. If they win they don’t get the money from the fines, therefore it can never be self funding. Also, if an Environmental Health Officer closes down an unsafe or over-crowded rental property that again affects the Councils budgets as they have to re-house the occupiers.

It’s a sad reality of life isn’t it? People only live in squalid conditions when there is no other choice.

Sadly, there are far too many unenforced laws.

There are other examples of laws being unenforced too.

Sale and Rent Back is supposedly regulated these days so why are the regulators not making an example out of illegal operators> How many have even been prosecuted this year?

Property Sourcing is supposedly regulated under the Estate Agents Act 1979. However, how many of the dodgy dealers touting supposed below market value properties have been prosecuted for not belonging to a redress scheme, as per the law?

We don’t need more regulation, we just need regulations to be enforced!

What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Tony White says:

    Fair comments Mark but they do only describe one half of the problem. There are bad tenants out there as well, tenants who don’t pay their rents, trash the property and use every device they can find to delay justifiable eviction. And generally they are supported in these delaying tactics by the Local Authorities housing benefits officers. And this side of the Landlord /Tenant relationship never gets publicized because it doesn’t make good reading in the tabloids

    It seems a sad fact of life that these local authority departments are driven and motivated not by a desire to fulfill their titular responsibilities – finding housing for the homeless – but by the need to hit their employers financial targets. And as a consequence increasing numbers of good Landlords are refusing to accept benefit dependent tenants because they can’t risk the cost of accepting them.

    So the tenants are pushed more and more to the worst area of the letting market

    Somewhere in this process the system seems to have forgotten that the word “servant” in Civil Servant implies they are working for the benefit of the community. Too often they are working for their administrative masters who are notionally being directed by whichever political group holds this year’s balance of power. In practice, however these masters are, on the basis of all the published evidence. self serving and operating for their own departmental interests.

    I guess its in the nature of the beast. Look what happens to NHS whistle blowers, How many times will you hear Social services departments stood on the steps of some Court following yet another case of child abuse, telling us they’ve “learned lessons” and are “Taking steps…”

    What housing needs is an honest and supportive relationship between those who are responsible for providing housing and those who are supporting the homeless in finding it, and with a system that is as ethically corrupt as the one we’ve got that will be a long time coming. So they’ll continue to turn a blind eye because financially it helps them meet their targets.


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  • Mark I could nto agree more, in Milton Keynes we are facing a blanket licencing of all HMOs and possibly selective licensing of all BTL properties, in a move by the council to stamp out problems with the housing stock. Selective licensing is allowed by the Housing Acti if there is a persistent and systemic problem with the PRS that is not being addressed by the LLs. However at the initial council meeting there was a suggestion in the council’s own documents that there is no real evidence of a problem. The council put in a blanket Article 4 a while back, so a large nubmer of the HMOs are already being inspected. The problem ones are those that operate “under the wire”, and no amount of additional licensing is going to make these LLs own up ot the Council if they are not doing so already. The Article 4 was brought in in the back of a tragic fire where a mother and child were killed, however there was sufficient legislation at the time to have dealt with this issue and avoided the tragedy, but as you said yourself it was really non enforecement issue, rather than a lack of legislation issue.

    As Tony says there is also the tenant issue to deal with, in MK there has been a drop in the number of LLs taking benefits claimants. Also if we do get a bad tenant and if they choose not to go when asked to leave, then the tiemtable to evict them by the legal processes takes months. During this time however there may be the false impression that the LL is not dealing with an anti-social behaviour problem, when in reality they are doing all that they legally can.


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  • Neil onions says:

    As a landlord with a property in Newham I am incensed that councils will not use their existing powers to crack down on obvious bad practice by a few by penalising the rest of us.
    Selective licencing will do absolutely nothing to help those tenants being abused by bad landlords, while penalising the rest of us.
    Purely a way to raise more money by the council in my opinion!


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  • Interesting, my first reaction upon reading the title of the thread was of course not. However, there are some very good points in the article.

    There are rules and regulations in place governing many of the problems associated with bad landlords.

    There are two solutions I can come up with, the first being that regulation may help, albeit costly and with its faults.

    However, if a landlord is already ignoring the various legal and safety issues associated with letting a property, how would a council/regulatory body stop any “backroom” deals taking place?

    Over the years, the number of landlords I have come across who have been unaware of the very basic legal implications of letting a property has been nothing short of astounding, let alone keeping up to date on new case law and the introduction of new regulations, which is why forums such as property118 are such a useful tool.

    The other solution would be to make tenants aware of a landlords legal requirements when letting a property. Citizens advice obviously helps with this although I have come across tenants who have received less than accurate advice from CAB.

    An idea would be; when changing over council tax to ask a tenant if they are the home owner or a tenant, if they are a tenant this could be noted by the council and an information pack sent to the property address, listing the legal requirements a landlord should have fulfilled.

    In my eyes this will inform a tenant of their rights and a landlords obligations, the property will be flagged as being a rental property and citizens advice can deal with any breaches involved.

    I believe this to be the most cost effective way to regulate landlords by making tenants aware of their rights and have access to a redress scheme should a landlord not fulfil their obligations, in much the same way that an ARLA or RICS agent has a complaints procedure.

    Of course this doesn’t resolve the issue with sub standard accommodation immediately, but it would make it easier to monitor in the long run and potentially enforce the “minimum standard” for private rented accommodation.


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  • The UK/England would do well to look North of the border before spending public money on this and before forcing landlords and agents to spend time and money complying with initiatives that do not deliver benefits for tenants anyway.

    Earlier this year the Scottish Association of Landlords published information branding Landlord Registration in Scotland (universal and mandatory here) a costly farce.

    The Landlord Registration scheme had from 2006 to January 2013 cost landlords and the taxpayer nearly £18 million.

    This multi-million pound scheme was introduced to “crack down on rogue landlords” but has resulted in only 11 people being reported to the procurator fiscal (responsible for prosecution of crime in Scotland) in the last two years.

    The breakdown revealed responsible landlords have paid £11.2 million in fees, while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million. Annual running fees for the website since 2006 are estimated to be just under £300,000.

    Despite that cost, only a handful of cases have made it as far as the Crown Office, and only 40 landlords have been refused registration, compared with 200,000 successful applicants.

    SAL calls for enforcement of all laws around letting, before any more legislation is set out.

    Scottish landlords please join SAL to add your voice to our campaigns.

    More information on the Landlord Registration story can be found on our website, news section.


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  • It’s the same old, same old: Landlords are the bad guys. And it’s just not true. Most landlords provide decent homes – because they want decent rent. It’s not just that they are OK humans, it makes good business sense. As has already been said by most people in this conversation: a few bad landlords is not a reason to change the rules for everyone. And the existing legislation gives councils plenty of powers. They just need to enforce properly.

    What the councils should really be thinking about is making their tenants more attractive to more private landlords. So getting more decent landlords involved in the sector. Instead of councils burdening landlords with more bureaucracy, they should make our lives easier.

    There are some very simple things they councils could do: Direct payments need to be made easier to establish. And eviction should not be dragged out.

    Councils used to re-home tenants when notice was served. But now more and more councils are forcing landlords and tenants to go to court and to deal with bailiffs. It’s just because they want to delay rehousing.

    Private landlords are now carrying a huge chunk of social responsibility. Councils should be wary of bashing us any more.

    .


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  • It does not deal with the landlords and agents who cause the issues – the landlords who register are those who act lawfully already.

    In my opinion there is already sufficient statutory legislation in place. What is needed is more EHO’s (property Police) on the street and an audit of every dwelling with powers for forced entry if prevented. This way they will find the people who operate unlawfully. They will make enough money to cover costs when they prosecute the unlawful landlords. Landlord Licensing just grabs a headline but will fail to deal with any or few of the current and future issues/exploitation.


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  • Cosmo Member Profile Deleted says:

    Mark, I have read your comments several times, not because I have a short memory but because you are right on more levels than you realise.
    The fact that laws are not regulated is, ironically a double edged sword.
    It’s good because it allows landlords to get on with their lives, jobs and business but it’s also a bad thing for the very same reason.
    Bad landlords get away with bad business while good landlords still do good business.
    More legislation just means more hoops for the baddies not to jump through.


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  • I don’t think regulation is the answer … I think education is!

    Good landlords should be educated to find good tenants.

    Good tenants should be educated to find good landlords.

    That leaves bad tenants to find bad landlords and vice versa … they deserve each other and will ruin each other.

    We need pro good landlord and pro good tenant campaigns. I am sick of hearing about tenants and landlords from hell! But tenants and landlords from heaven do not make an interesting media story when people are chasing eyeballs.

    In the past two months, I have been contacted by 4 TV programmes all asking for my help in finding landlords with bad tenants.

    On each occasion, I spent about an hour talking through the REAL issues in the PRS and none of them were interested.

    They all said “Very interesting, but Channel X wants something controversial that gets people tuning in”.

    Another version of dumbing down.

    All this anti-landlord media activity and stories of tenants from hell will deter decent landlords entering the sector imho.

    The answer is within our communities but few people seem to feel strongly enough about it to do express an opinion.


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