The banning of two many unsightly boards on houses has long been a bone of contention between local authorities and agents and landlords. All other signs on building are subject to planning permission in one form or another, so that the local authority has some control over the appearance of the neighbourhood.
However, letting and sale boards are of a temporary nature, or should be, and have been tolerated by most councils. But with the proliferation of lettings over recent years means that boards contribute to a more permanent and unsightly scene in may neighbourhoods, triggering complaints from residents.
Camden Council’s latest announcement that it is planning to ban all “To-Let” boards from rented houses in the borough has brought the issue to the fore once again.
Several other authorities have been making noises along the same lines including north east towns like Durham, Newcastle. Lincoln has now joined Brighton and Hove which has an actual ban in place, and has had for many years now.
Another problem is that some boards are being left up virtually permanently, even after the property is let, and some councils are resorting to set fines if they are not removed after the property is no longer on the market.
Boards are perhaps the least expensive way to market a property, whether for sale or to let, attracting interest from people in the immediate locality; there are other local methods including the local newspapers, but these days it is more common to rely on the Internet.
Most people today start property searches online, so the need for a board is diminishing, councils are arguing. Lincoln’s planning boss is reported as saying that “a ban on ‘to-let’ signs in five areas of Lincoln should not have a negative effect on landlords.”
The council’s planning manager, Kieron Manning has said:
“In recent years, the council has witnessed a significant increase in the number of complaints about the proliferation of ‘to-let’ boards in certain parts of the city.
“Any letting sign should be a temporary feature but, when signs are left up too long in areas containing high numbers of rental properties, they can begin to dominate the street scene.
“We became aware that some signs were staying almost all-year-round and this was beginning to have a negative effect on the look and feel of our streets, so we decided to take pro-active action to solve the problem.
“We are very pleased that government has listened and agreed to allow us to implement the ban.
“We don’t expect this to have a negative impact on the city’s rental market as searches are now mostly done online, and people who are interested in moving to these particular areas will be able to find homes to rent very easily on the internet.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has reported that the bans or proposed bans are having a mixed reception among landlords.
Some have said that “to let” boards are outdated anyway and they don’t use them; they are “harking back to the days when putting a sign in a window was the only method of attracting tenants” and with the Internet they are rendered them obsolete.
Other landlords, according to the RLA, have said this is “just another example of ‘landlord-bashing’ and that to-let signs are still an important tool when it comes to marketing a property.”
Labour-controlled Camden council claims it has received over 1,000 complaints about for-sale and to-let boards over the past five years.
It has now applied to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government for permission to ban the boards unless planning permission is sought and granted.
The council’s planning committee chair, Danny Beales, has said:
“It’s clear that from our consultation that an overwhelming majority of residents support the change. The boards are cluttering our streets, often left for months on end, effectively free advertising.”
A statement issued by Camden says:
“Estate agent boards continue to be one of the most common complaints made to Camden’s Planning Enforcement Team. Across the borough there are examples of estate agents disregarding the regulations, displaying numerous boards per building and keeping them up for long periods despite properties being sold or let.
“Estate Agent boards are seen by many as outdated eyesores, which merely add unnecessary clutter to our streets and take up valuable council resources as we seek to secure their removal.”