Peterborough landlords fined and thousands of repairs ordered under new licensing scheme
Landlords in Peterborough have been fined under a new licensing scheme which has seen repairs ordered on thousands of city properties.
Peterborough City Council introduced selective licensing in December 2016 in a bid to tackle rogue landlords.
The scheme forces landlords to hold a licence for each property they rent out in nine different areas of the city.
A new report into the scheme has revealed that landlords have been found guilty in court on 10 occasions for not holding a licence, while on three occasions civil penalties have been issued under new government powers, allowing the council to issue larger fines than the courts.
Moreover, out of nearly 7,000 property inspections which have been undertaken since the scheme began, 2,627 (38 per cent) required repairs and a full inspection to be carried out by a housing enforcement officer.
On top of that, the council said applications for gas safety certificates in the month before selective licensing began showed 18 per cent of properties were previously without one.
Emma Dighton, director at estate agents Belvoir Peterborough, said: “Most landlords that we speak to have welcomed the scheme as long as the council use it to its full potential to prosecute and stop the rogue landlords and not use it as a tax for the good ones.
“The initial introduction of the scheme felt rushed and disorganised and there was conflicting information being given, however, it now appears to be operating well and the council are inspecting properties and demonstrating a willingness to work with responsible landlords and improve the quality of the private rented sector in Peterborough.
“It has been encouraging to see the council actively locate and pursue the landlords of privately rented properties that do not have a license. Whilst there are still some flaws with the scheme, mainly centred around the administering of the licence, we believe that on the whole it has had a positive effect.
“As an agent we have seen that properties for sale in areas which fall under the selective licensing scheme have been less attractive to landlords due to the increased upfront cost of the licence, and have seen a small number of landlords choosing to sell.
“However, the selective licensing scheme has been only a contributing factor in their decision and not the main motivator. We believe the positives of the scheme outway the negatives and that the introduction of the scheme has encouraged more private landlords to become members of the National Landlord Association and commit to training and continued professional development, or to choose their agent more wisely and look only at those that are accredited and will support them in ensuring the conditions of the license are adhered to.”
Selective licensing currently covers all privately rented properties in parts, or all, of the following wards: Central, North, East, Park, Fletton, Bretton North, Stanground Central, Walton and Orton Longueville.
The scheme is currently planned to run until October 31, 2021.
The council said the introduction of selective licensing has seen a drop in complaints received from tenants about their housing conditions from 1,016 in 2016 to 635 last year.
When the scheme was introduced there were fears the cost of paying for a five year licence - which could range from £50 to £600 - would lead to landlords selling up.
All licences now cost £600.
The council report acknowledges that homelessness has “increased substantially in the past two years”, but that the most common reasons for this were the introduction of the Universal Credit benefits system, the freezing of Local Housing Allowance rates and changes to the tax relief landlords could get on their private properties.