Liverpool City Council’s five-year-old landlord licensing scheme ends this week after the Government blocked its renewal. Tony McDonough reports
Rogue residential landlords in Liverpool will continue to face tough action despite the ending of the city’s pioneering Landlord Licensing scheme.
For the past five years, all property owners, landlords and managing agents in the city have been legally required by the city council to licence any property unless a statutory exemption applied.
However, in January Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson was shocked when the Government refused an application for the scheme to continue. He warned the loss of protection would put the the lives of tenants at risk.
There were 51,764 property licences in force, issued to 10,074 licence holders, and the team conducted more than 34,000 compliance checks of properties and identified 65% as not being fully complaint with licence conditions at first visit.
As well as variable management standards, 3,375 of the most serious category 1 and 2 hazards were discovered, affecting the health, safety and well-being of residents. These ranged from fire safety hazards to significant damp and mould, serious disrepair and excess cold issues.
There were more than 300 successful prosecutions that led to fines and in one case a custodial sentence for offences including operating unlicensed properties, breaches of licence conditions and failure to comply with legal notices – and more than 2,500 fines were issued.
The scheme has now come to an end but the council insists that all current cases that are with the legal team will continue to be processed and taken to court where necessary. The council is also actively looking at submitting another application to the Government for a substantial landlord licensing scheme.
Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Lynnie Hinnigan, said: “Landlord licensing enabled us, for the first time ever, to build a picture of the private rented sector in the city and take action where necessary.
“It is a great shame that the Government turned down our application for another city-wide scheme, but we are committed to continuing to do what we can to protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords.
“Where we receive a complaint we will investigate but regrettably, apart from the HMO sector, we will no longer have the capacity to do proactive work in terms of knocking on doors to check conditions. The size of the private rented sector in Liverpool – in some areas 50% of properties – means we can’t afford to be without a landlord licensing scheme.”
From April 1, the council will continue to use its statutory powers provide help and advice for tenants and landlords, focusing on the licensing and inspection of the 3,000 houses of multiple occupation (HMO), as well as investigating complaints and referrals about private sector housing in Liverpool.
All existing licence holders renting out a property with five or more tenants, forming two or more households, require a HMO licence, in line with legislation introduced in 2018.