'HOUSING HORROR STORIES BEHIND SELECTIVE LICENSING'
Kit Sandeman (Local Democracy Reporter), writing for the Nottingham Post on 17 August 2018 posted the following article, following on from the City Council's implementation on 1 August 2018 of selective licensing of private rented sector properties in Nottingham.
Shocking pictures reveal housing horror stories behind selective licensing decision
'95 percent of landlords are good people. The five percent that are letting us down are the ones we will be ruthlessly hunting for'
An environmental health expert has described the horrific conditions he’s seen Nottingham renters live in, and has said his team will ‘ruthlessly hunt’ bad landlords as part of the selective licensing process.
Steve Matthews has worked around housing in Nottingham for 20 years and is now the principal environmental health officer at the city council.
He was speaking today about the introduction of a controversial scheme known as Selective Licensing.
It means most private landlords in the city now have to buy a licence to rent their properties out.
Those who don’t obtain a licence will be committing a criminal offence, and can be fined up to £30,000.
Speaking about standards of housing in the city, Mr Matthews said he had seen people living in houses that he ‘wouldn’t let an animal live in’.
He said poor-quality housing had major detrimental effects on people’s mental and physical health.
Mr Matthews also claimed a number of the worst landlords were also involved in criminal behaviour.
He said: “The rogue landlords we are dealing with now are criminals, they’re not just bad landlords. They are operating illegal taxis, they are knowledgeable about prostitution and the cannabis grows in their properties, they are dealing with illegal tobacco, illegal car clocking - the crime aspect is huge.”
Mr Matthews works alongside a team of 76 people funded entirely by the selective licence fees.
He said he comes across a new property owned by a rogue landlord ‘about once a week’.
Often, many substandard properties are really owned by one individual, but on paper are owned by shell companies or members of a family.
The large networks make it difficult for enforcement officers such as Mr Matthews to obtain a list of dodgy properties.
Currently, there have been 8,000 applications for licenses. A grace period has been created for landlords with more than 30 properties, or agencies with more than 120 houses.
Around 7,000 homes are covered by this grace period, meaning bosses hope that by the end of October more than 15,000 properties will be covered.
Anton Menzies is the head of safer housing, and says at the end of the grace period, his team will begin ‘hunting’ those landlords who are still continuing to operate without a licence.
He said: “95 percent of landlords are good people. The five percent that are letting us down are the ones we will be ruthlessly hunting for. So once the grace period is over, the ones who are ducking this will be the ones who feel the heat.
“For years and years, the good landlords have been saying to us ‘why don’t you go after the bad landlords’, well now they can be assured that we will be, because of the team that’s funded by the selective licence.
“It’s about creating a level playing field for the good landlords. The money from the licences pays for the people who will pro-actively hunt the bad landlords.”
David Hobbs is the selective licensing manager at the council. He said: “It’s a five year scheme, and we hope that by the end of it bad landlords will have left the market altogether, because they can’t stand the heat. Either that or they will get out before we get to them, because they will know it’s coming.”
Mr Menzies said he understood concerns from some ‘good’ landlords about having to pay for a licence.
He said: “People think the money is going into a secret bank account, but we’re going to be publishing exactly where the money is going, and what successes we have. We have made that promise that in terms of performance we are going to be transparent.”
Councillor Jane Urquhart is the city council’s housing chief, and represents the Sherwood ward for Labour.
She said: "People in Nottingham have a right to expect a decent and safe standard of private rented accommodation, which is well managed and maintained.
“Nottingham’s private rented tenants will now be clear on what is expected of their landlord in terms of property management and standards. Rogue landlords will be investigated and action taken.
“By providing a clear set of guidelines, which all landlords need to meet, the scheme will help prevent bad landlords cut corners or ‘undercut’ good ones, creating a level playing field for all."
Also for the Nottingham Post, on 1 August 2018, Matt Jarman reported on the reaction of tenants to selective licensing.
Tenants react to potential rent rises when new council scheme goes live
Landlords said city council's selective licensing will see tenants pick up the bill
Tenants have reacted to a controversial new licensing scheme which could see their rents rise by around £25 a month.
The Nottingham City Council scheme - designed to improve the standards of rented accommodation in the city - has caused an uproar from landlords.
They have called the scheme a "shambles" with some claiming rents will have to rise in order to recoup the costs demanded upon them by the local authority.
The council received approval by the Secretary of State to introduce selective licensing in parts of the city earlier this year.
It wants to license properties in areas including the city centre, Lenton, Hyson Green, Sherwood, St Ann's, Bulwell and The Meadows.
Having a licence means the council can check properties are safe to rent.
Accredited landlords have to cough up £480 per property while non-accredited pay £780.
Around 32,000 properties need a licence but the local authority has only received 5,425, up from 3,140 applications a few days ago.
The deadline is Wednesday (August 1).
Landlords now run the risk of facing financial fines of up to £30,000 or prosecution through the courts if they don't have a licence in time.
David Thomas, director of letting agency Liberty Gate, which based in Lace Market, said "rent would go up immediately" by about £25 a month to cover the costs.
He also said some landlords are selling up and leaving the city.
Tenants took to social media to express their concerns.
Claire Causer said: "We have just been made homeless thanks to this council implemented scheme.
"It's supposed to help family's like ours, instead our landlord is selling because he can't afford the costs without 'punishing' the tenants with unfair rent increases."
Abi Daisy added: "My landlord is selling our house after we moved in a year ago. We are now homeless with three children."
Paul Bennett stressed: "My rent went up £35 straight away to cover this scheme. Landlords were always going pass this fee onto their tenants and this will cause real hardship to some families who may have been struggling to stay afloat prior to this scheme being implemented."
Julie Shaw said: "If people are claiming housing benefit and the landlord increases the rent then the council have to pay more housing benefit.
"Are the council so thick they can't see where this is heading? Will they be able to step in and provide homes for those folks who end up homeless through not being able to afford extra rent?"
Sammy Hunt said: So basically you can’t afford to buy a house and now you can’t afford to rent."
Emma Dawn Wood added: "My rents going up by £25 a month and I'm not happy."
Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning and housing, said: "We closely followed strict Government guidelines on how to introduce this scheme, involving providing very robust evidence to show there is a need for it.
"This included the outcomes of a full public consultation when landlords had the opportunity to comment. It was a decision for the Secretary of State, who gave the go-ahead for the scheme, including the areas where it would be implemented.
"As we have said previously, this is still likely to be less than £2 per week per property for accredited landlords and no more than £3 a week for non-accredited landlords.
"The council is not permitted to make a profit from the introduction of a selective licensing scheme.
"Licence fee income goes towards the set-up, running and enforcement of the scheme and this is how the licence fee is determined."
It is useful to compare the comments made by David Thomas, director of the Liberty Gate letting agency based in the Lace Market that "rent would go up immediately" by about £25 a month to cover costs, with those of Cllr Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning and housing: "As we have said previously, this is still likely to be less than £2 per week per property for accredited landlords and no more than £3 a week for non-accredited landlords. ..."