The backlash from private landlords against selective licensing by local councils appears to be growing. The Daily Telegraph has reported that the National Landlords Association is gathering evidence for legal action against a number of local authorities.
One objection is to the way the swelling numbers of buy-to-let landlords appear to be the target for ‘voluntary’ registers presented by councils as measures to tackle anti-social behavior. Decline to pay the fee and join the register and, say landlords, you appear to be some sort of rogue tolerating misbehaviour by tenants.
The fees for registering can be up £1,100, according to Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA. And it’s the objection that this charge will be passed on to tenants that has stayed the hands of one council that has been considering a licensing scheme.
(By the way, selective licensing must not be confused with the mandatory licensing scheme for landlords of houses in multiple occupancy.)
Waltham Forest council is consulting further after landlords in the north-east London borough said the £500 per property license would unfairly penalize good landlords and their tenants.
Campaign group Waltham Forest Landlords told the Waltham Forest Guardian that only law-abiding landlords would come forward to join the register, while the rogues remained underground.
The scheme, it said, would end up being a ‘tenants’ tax’.
Similar campaigns are being conducted by landlords up and down the country, with councils from Oldham to Enfield all in varying stages of setting up licensing schemes. They feel that buy-to-let landlords in particular have become a new cash cow for councils and are being hounded to the point were letting becomes unviable.
This at a time when there are up to 1.4 million private landlords, whose tenants since last year have outnumbered those in social housing.
One more cautionary note for landlords is that some councils have scrapped exemptions from council tax for landlords when properties are void for a short period between tenants or for maintenance.
There isn’t much public sympathy for landlords, often tarnished by association with the minority of rogues who treat tenants badly or fail to keep their property in good order.
But the new pension arrangements announced in the budget, it has been predicted, might see even more investment in buy-to-let by people seeking a better deal in old age than offered by annuities. At SJ Collections we first blogged about this issue last year. We can only recommend that prospective landlords do their homework first, so they are aware of the pitfalls that can trap the unwary.