A scheme forcing landlords in some areas of Peterborough to buy a licence is set to be introduced despite opposition to the proposals.
Landlords implicated in the scheme, which will cover around 37 per cent of the city’s private rented stock, were said to be mostly against its introduction following a consultation by Peterborough City Council which ended earlier this month.
However, supporters of Selective Licensing said it was backed by the majority of the public and that it was needed to tackle rogue landlords.
One recent example given to illustrate this point was of an unaccredited letting agent barging into a home in the evening and scaring three young children over unpaid rent.
At the council’s Strong and Supportive Communities Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday evening (January 20) backers of the scheme said charges ranging from £50 to £900 for a five-year licence will help to tackle the problem with rogue landlords.
Gary Goose, the council’s project lead for Selective Licensing, opened the meeting by telling councillors: “The consultation we believe was a a positive exercise. Over 1,500 individual responses were received and 146 detailed emails asking questions.
“About 60 per cent of those who responded were in favour of the scheme and around 35-40 per cent were not.
“Landlords were generally not in favour of the scheme but members of the public in the areas were.
“At the closure of the consultation I still feel Selective Licensing is a scheme that will help to improve the quality of life in some areas of the city where it’s needed most.”
Selective Licensing was originally proposed for Gladstone, Millfield, New England and Eastfield which drew accusations of racism after detractors claimed it unfairly targeted Asian landlords who are prevalent in the area.
However, the scheme was deferred in September last year to widen its scope, and the new proposal will impact landlords in the following wards: Central, North, East, Park, Fletton, Bretton North, Stanground Central, Walton and Orton Longueville.
Now, 6,205 properties will be affected and landlords will have to purchase a licence to avoid prosecution.
Landlords who are accredited members of a nationally accredited landlord/letting agent association will pay £50 per property for a five-year licence.
That fee rises to £600 for non-accredited landlords and £900 for any landlord who is found to be renting a property without having made a valid application for a licence three months after the start of the scheme.
For a House in Multiple Occupation the cost is £750 for a licence.
Councillor Chris Ash, a member of the scrutiny committee, said: “This is something we need to grapple with. It’s unfortunate we can’t do it for the whole of the city.
“I’m a bit concerned by the fee side of things. What I do not want is to drive good landlords out or push on the costs.”
Mr Goose replied: “We are precluded by law from trying to introduce a city-wide scheme.
“Selective Licensing will support landlords carrying out the proper process.
I do not think it’s right in the city we have a situation that we face today of a letting agent that’s not accredited to a national body threatening a family that has three young children all of whom are under five - forcing their way into a property all because they have rent overdue.
“I do not think it’s right for children under five to be cowering because someone comes into the house at 10pm.”
The council is only seeking to introduce Selective Licensing in areas where five of the six following criteria are met:
. That the area is suffering from low housing demand
. It is experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour
. It is suffering from poor property conditions
. It has high levels of migration
. It has high levels of deprivation
. It has high levels of crime
Cllr John Fox said: “Will people see the difference straight away?”
Responding, Cllr Peter Hiller, the cabinet member responsible for the policy, said: “This scheme is not going to penalise good landlords. I personally think that it will take time to see an appreciable difference on the streets of this city, but I imagine in 18 months to two years we will see a big difference.”
Cllr Lisa Forbes, the committee chair, asked if bad landlords would just go elsewhere in the city.
Mr Goose said: “We are alive to that and monitoring it on a day-to-day basis. If we need to introduce another scheme we will bring it back to you.
“There are a couple of areas in the city we will be keeping a clear watch on to make sure that does not happen.”
Following that up, Cllr Forbes asked: “A lot of landlords say they would sell up just thinking ‘what’s the point in this’? as it’s not beneficial to them.
“Do you think you may see more homelessness as a result of that?”
Mr Goose said he hoped not and that some landlords had mistakenly thought they would be paying £600 a year instead of every five.
He added: “We will be monitoring the homelessness situation very carefully. We have a very effective homelessness team who do a really good job on a day-to-day basis.”
Cllr Forbes highlighted that £600 was a lot of money, but Mr Goose said the answer was to get accredited online for a relatively low cost, adding: “The message is just get accredited and demonstrate to us you want to act properly.”
Selective Licensing is only for five years, with the possibility of an extension, and Mr Goose admitted that it was a “calculated leap of faith.”
But despite concerns to begin with there was a general approval among councillors that the scheme should proceed despite disappointment that government legislation prevents it from being introduced city-wide.
Cllr Forbes said: “I think whilst this scheme is not perfect, it’s better than the first scheme and I am minded to support it.”
Cllr Fox added: “If I was a landlord I would see this charge as me protecting my good name. I would want to sign up and do this properly.”
By law, money made from Selective Licensing has to be re-invested in the scheme.
But councillors made a recommendation that any money received be made transparent for people to see, and they approved a recommendation from Cllr Pedro Faustino that the views of all people be taken on board when the final scheme is drawn up before coming forward for approval.