The new housing secretary Robert Jenrick has turned down an application by Liverpool City Council to extend Liverpool’s city-wide licensing scheme for private sector landlords for another five years.
Currently, all private landlords in Liverpool must obtain a licence for each of their rented properties and since the introduction of the scheme in 2015, 70% of inspected properties in Liverpool have been found to be in breach of their licence conditions, says the council. Included in the reasons for the breaches were fire, electrical safety and excess cold hazards, and according to the council all constituting serious risks for tenants.
Around half of all properties in some parts of the City of Liverpool are private rented properties amounting to around 55,000 properties. Within these numbers, the Council says it has carried out over 37,000 compliance actions, it has issued over 2,500 legal and fixed penalty notices, and taken to court almost 250 landlords.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has said he is writing to the government to express “grave concerns” following housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s decision to turn down the Council’s application to extend a licensing scheme for another five years.
The Council says it rejects the government’s assessment that its application “did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city” and it is asking for more detail on the basis of the Government’s decision.
Without this scheme, the Council thinks it will not have the same powers to gain access to properties to carry out inspections and enforcement, and the capacity to carry out proactive enforcement will be severely diminished, it says.
The Council has said it may put up a legal challenge to the government’s decision.
Mayor Anderson says:
“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.”
A Government MHCLG spokesperson responded:
“Following careful and detailed consideration, it was decided that Liverpool City Council’s application for selective licensing did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city.
“Liverpool City Council was one of more than 130 local councils to recently receive a share of £4.3m funding from government to tackle rogue landlords.
“We will continue to support Liverpool City Council and other local authorities in taking effective enforcement action as part of our commitment to securing a better deal for tenants across the country.”