A row in Croydon over the council’s plans to levy a £200 a year licence fee for each property owned by a private landlord is just the latest to erupt up and down the country.
The local paper, the Croydon Advertiser, recently reported on a meeting organised by the National Landlords Association to oppose introduction of a licensing scheme on which the south London borough has been consulting.
It quoted Sally-Anne Stapleford, who has properties in Croydon and Crystal Palace, as saying ‘Many landlords will make a decision, as a business, to pass on the costs to their tenants.’
The council is seeking £1,000 for each property under a five-year licensing system. Well, you can see how the sums would add up for landlords on top of the costs of maintaining property. And it is widely acknowledged that many of Croydon’s 30,000 or so privately rented properties are in poor condition. The NLA says £200-£250 over the five years would be fairer.
Labour says the scheme builds on the success of licensing in Newham, east London, where the borough even increased its council tax take by a reported £290,000 plus by enforcing registration and believes it is driving out rogue landlords to the benefit of tenants and reputable private landlords. It is also said to help root out anti-social behaviour by bad renters.
Local Tory MP Gavin Barwell told the Advertiser that the council already has powers to deal with the ‘small minority of landlords’ who keep their properties in a very poor state of repair. It was, he said, ‘a classic stealth tax’ that would raise about £4.5m a year and avoid putting up council tax bills.
We shall be watching with interest the result of Croydon’s deliberations. At SJ Collections we have experience of helping landlords pick up the pieces when there are problems with bad tenants.
But the ‘rogues’ give the sector a bad name. And, interestingly, the Advertiser has just reported on the case of two landlords in Thornton Health, who were fined £3,000 each plus costs for not having a licence under existing legislation for a house in multiple occupation. The case was brought after seven people had to be rescued from a fire.
Not, perhaps, a good omen for landlords opposing tighter regulation.