Landlords in Luton say they have persuaded the town’s council to delay its highly controversial additional and selective licencing schemes, the fourth time this has happened in as many years.
A letter distributed by the council reveals that, in accordance with Section 60 of the Housing Act 2004, the schemes were revoked ten days before they were both due to go live at the end of last month.
“The reasons for revoking the Designation are that the Council is to amend the implementation date of the scheme,” it says.
Both the borough-wide additional HMO and central selective licencing schemes are now due to go live on February 5th next year, four years after they were first proposed.
The additional scheme will charge HMO landlords up to £610 per property depending on their size and whether the owner is accredited, and the selective licencing scheme will charge £488 per property both for a five-year scheme.
Luton Borough Council says the delay to the scheme’s start is a technical procedural measure, but a spokesperson from local group Luton Landlords and Letting Agents (LLLA) says the postponement follows their lawyer’s recent pre-action protocol letter to borough officials “identifying concerns about potential unlawfulness and their response was to revoke the Schemes again,” the spokesperson says.
The group argues that the schemes are unnecessary because although there will always be some rogue landlords and poor properties, “that’s why councils have enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute the select few," its spokesperson says.
“They have available to them a range of powers to deal with these issues and now they can also issue civil penalties directly against the problem properties and landlords."
LLLA claims Luton, like many councils, is bringing in HMO and general licencing in a bid to “cover their own lack of funding [for enforcement] in this area”.
As LandlordZONE reported, LLLA successfully took the borough to court in July 2022 and won a Judicial Review of the schemes’ implementation, compelling the council to withdraw them.
Its spokesperson adds: “It speaks volumes how the sound bites from LBC are always about ‘rogue landlords’ or a group of landlords vehemently against the schemes.
“But this is about normal people against unlawful schemes and unlawful actions of the local authority. The facts speak for themselves - this is now the 4th failed attempt to bring in licensing schemes, the first halted during the consultation stage and then three schemes have been designated and subsequently revoked when legally challenged.”
"We remain absolutely committed to improving the quality of rented accommodation throughout the town. It’s vital that residents live in decent homes and that all landlords are acting in a responsible way," a council spokesperson says.
"Sadly, there are some landlords who are not acting responsibly and are forcing their tenants to live in sub-standard and potentially dangerous accommodation.
"By implementing these licensing schemes landlords will need to ensure the quality of the accommodation they offer meets a decent standard if they wish to carry on renting out their properties.
"Legal challenges from landlords have delayed the implementation of the scheme, and following further consultation and engagement with them, has been refined. Having listened to these further concerns, we have put in place a new implementation date and are confident that we are in a position to successfully defend any future challenge.
"Other parts of the country that have introduced this type of selective and additional licensing have experienced improvements in neighbourhoods, which have enhanced the quality of life for all residents and we anticipate the same happening here in Luton."
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