Landlord licensing was first introduced into Liverpool in April 2015 and has resulted in the prosecution of almost 250 rogue landlords. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson is considering a legal challenge after the Government rejected the city council’s bid to extend its landlord licensing scheme for another five years.
Landlord licensing was first introduced into Liverpool in April 2015 and Mayor Anderson believes it has driven up standards in the private rented sector. In the past five years is has issued more than 2,500 legal and fixed penalty notices and prosecuted almost 250 landlords.
The council has also carried out more than 37,000 compliance actions. Liverpool alone has been responsible for 389% of the 460% national rise in prosecutions of landlords between 2012 and 2018.
However, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has turned down an application to keep the citywide scheme going for five years from April 2020, despite the backing of Merseyside Police, Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and the majority of residents who responded to the consultation.
A stunned Mayor Anderson said the decision makes no sense and puts the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable tenants at risk. He added: “ This decision flies in the face of the Government’s tough talk on housing standards, particularly around fire safety in rented properties.
“Over the last five years our officers have come across people whose landlords are happy to take their rent while allowing them to live in appalling conditions with unsafe electrics, gas supply and no fire doors to protect them in the event that a blaze breaks out.
“The Landlord Licensing scheme has enabled us to create a team to be able to hit the streets every day and carry out inspections of properties and bring rogue landlords to book. It is not just about raising housing standards – it is about protecting and saving lives.”
The council rejects the Government’s view that the application “did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city” and is asking for more detail on how it reached the decision.
Government approval is needed for schemes which cover more than 20% of a council area, and Liverpool wanted to continue with a citywide scheme due to the size and scale of the issue with the private rented sector in the city. It accounts for up to half of housing in some areas and covers 55,000 properties in total.
The Mayor said: “This Government has already taken away £436m of our funding since 2010 and is now weakening our power to improve housing standards for those who are part of generation rent to the bare minimum.
“All of the talk of devolution away from Whitehall rings hollow when we see ministers in London making vital decisions about cities like Liverpool and other areas they never step foot in.”