Ascheme to help tackle problems in the private rented sector has reached its milestone first birthday.
Nottingham City Council introduced a new housing licensing scheme for most houses in Nottingham to help tackle problems such as antisocial behaviour, crime, poor property conditions and deprivation. This runs alongside the other housing licensing schemes operating for houses in multiple occupation.
The Government agreed the scheme would help to sort these issues and it was launched on 1 August 2018. Since then the council has received nearly 17,000 applications and has worked with many of these landlords to help them improve their properties. In one case an elderly couple only had two gas fires to heat their home, and on advice the landlord installed central heating.
Landlords of private properties need to apply to the council to ensure they comply with this legal requirement. It’s a criminal offence if landlords don’t apply and they run the risk of:
- Not being able to legally evict tenants
- Tenants seeking to claim back their rent for up to 12 months (through the tribunal service)
- Criminal proceedings though the court or a fine (civil penalty) of up to £30,000.
The council has and continues to use its powers to enforce against landlords who don’t comply with their legal obligations and apply for licences. Since August 2018 the council has issued 22 civil penalty notices and 5 prosecutions, with 9 of these relating to landlords failing to apply for a selective licence and 4 relating to landlord failing to licence under the mandatory or additional scheme.
Officers have been out to visit unlicensed properties in the city and in some cases have uncovered imminent disrepair to properties and in particular noted a trend of smoke alarm system not working or being completed absent placing tenants at risk.
Housing licensing is now estimated to cover over 90% of all houses in Nottingham, including single and multi-occupancy houses such as shared student housing, bedsits, blocks of flats and young professionals living together.
Cllr Linda Woodings, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage, said: “We recognise the value of good landlords in the city and the work they do to provide good quality housing. Generally privately rented accommodation lags behind other types of housing in terms of property conditions. This licensing scheme continues to help us work towards providing quality housing for all.
“This schemed has already helped to improve rented properties across the city and it is important that landlords get the homes they own licensed and work with the council to help improve renting standards in the city and make lives better for tenants living in these homes.”
The council is working with landlords to help them physically improve their property, but also to make them more aware of their legal obligations by requiring them to comply with certain licence conditions. This includes making sure they are trained in housing law and know what they should be doing to comply with their own legal requirements. These things wouldn’t be possible without the licensing scheme.
The council has met landlords at over 30 events over the last year and there are plans to launch a new Landlord Liaison Group after positive feedback. The council wants to continue to develop partnerships with landlords and tenants through different events and information on the website – this includes plans to add a tool to help search and check if properties are licensed or not. There will also be videos available from engagement events for anyone who couldn’t attend them.
Cllr Woodings continued: “Our message is simple – we want to work with good landlords and remove bad, rogue and criminal landlords from the market. They may be undercutting and offering sub-standard accommodation which affects people living in the private rented sector. This is not just the council but we have heard the same message from landlords and letting agents too. We want to protect residents and continue to improve the housing offer in Nottingham.”
Landlords who have not applied for a licence are putting their business at risk and the council would encourage them to apply as soon as possible. If the council does identify an unlicensed property, they can be brought into the scheme and face higher application fees and be at risk of criminal proceedings.
To apply or find out more information about the scheme visit – www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/qualityhousingforall