When a third of tenants have been evicted or threatened with eviction after complaining to their landlord about the condition of a property, according to research by online community Tenants’ Voice, it’s hardly a surprise that the issue of licensing landlords might be ‘flavour of the month’.
Blogging for Landlord Today, Malcolm Harrison says knee-jerk legislation to implement licensing is being considered by ‘every vote-catcher from the right wing of the Tory party through to the left wing of the Labour party – and probably beyond.’
In fact, the Guardian reported in May that compulsory licensing was being considered by a third of the 178 councils which responded to a survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) and the Electrical Safety Council. They said they would consider licensing to reduce health and safety risks and to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords.
The bandwagon started rolling in January 2013 when the London borough of Newham introduced compulsory licensing of private landlords covering about 40,000 tenancies. Lauren Lucas of the LGIU, writing for the Guardian Professional Housing Network, said this was against the background of an 88% increase in private renters between 2001 and 2011, as recorded by the 2011 Census
Lucas said that, in addition to the Office for National Statistics Census findings, ‘the ability to discharge the homelessness duty through private sector accommodation, new energy efficiency responsibilities in the energy bill, and changes to the single room rate (which may drive demand for homes of multiple occupancies) are all conspiring to increase the significance of the [private rented] sector for local authorities.’
The Tenants’ Voice survey found that renters are so worried about asking landlords to make repairs that 71% have paid the bills out of their own pockets. And landlords had been difficult with or ignored the six in 10 of those polled who did ask for maintenance to be carried out.
The survey findings suggest to Tenants’ Voice that growing number of renters are facing ‘retaliatory evictions’. This is where a landlord issues a section 21 notice to end a tenancy rather than undertake repairs.
The types of complaint made by tenants include damp (58%), general disprepair (54%), boiler repars (36%) and electrical issues (32%). Yet raising these issues might save landlords from bigger bills in the long run. Some perhaps do not understand the importance to their profits of maintaining the value of a property, as we discussed here on 19 October.
Glenn Nickols of Tenants’ Voice warns renters that: ‘Suffering in silence because they’re worried about what their landlords might say could have potentially devastating consequences.’
Job creation scheme
But blogger Harrison dismisses landlord licensing as a job creation scheme for cash-strapped local authorities that will kill the private rented sector. Couple this with a housing shortage blamed on successive governments and, he says in Jeremy Clarkson top gear, ‘temporary camps could be set up in royal and municipal parks throughout the land to house the new homeless.’
The essence of letting is quite simple and most landlords are not evil, nor are they stupid, says Harrison. ‘They understand that the best way to protect a capital asset, protect their income stream and have a reasonably hassle-free life is to meet the reasonable expectations of their tenants.’
This debate will clearly continue as more councils move towards licensing. We will watch for evidence of residential landlords leaving the sector.
Meanwhile, SJ Collections can help landlords on the steps to be taken when relationships with a tenant break down and the unpaid rent bills start growing.