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Hounslow Council has u-turned on plans for a landlord licensing scheme

Hounslow Council has u-turned on plans to introduce a licensing scheme for landlords. 

Plans for an additional licensing scheme for landlords were passed by the local authority’s cabinet in July.

But following growing pressure from the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and Safeagent, the council has decided to go back to the drawing board. 

The RLA had threatened the council with a judicial review on the basis that the consultation it ran to establish the scheme was flawed.

Issues included a failure to provide any information upon which the plans for the scheme were being made.

The RLA was also concerned by a failure to outline, as is required by law, how such a licensing scheme would be consistent with the council’s housing strategy and what conclusions the councils had reached about potential alternative ways of addressing the problems this scheme was seeking to address.

The RLA also raised concerns that while the consultation proposed the scheme be adopted across the whole borough it made reference to applying it across a smaller area without giving respondents to the consultation any information about what this might look like. This gave the clear impression that the council had made up its mind before the consultation began.

In addition, the RLA pointed out that although much of the above information was presented to the council’s cabinet, these papers could not be found on the authority’s website for respondents to access. 

The council’s lawyers have now contacted the RLA to confirm it will not take forward the decision by the cabinet to introduce the additional licencing scheme, and will now reconsider the way forward, including carrying out a new consultation.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “We welcome the news. Hounslow Council had failed to consult on its plans properly. We are glad that they have had the courage to admit this and think again.

“Rather than seeking to re-consult on its proposals, the council should consider the reality that they can already access a wealth of information on landlords from council tax returns, tenancy deposit schemes and the electoral roll. 

“Instead of tying up good landlords with red tape whilst the criminals continue operating under the radar, the council needs to develop proper enforcement strategies focussed on rooting out those who bring the sector into disrepute. Licensing does not achieve this.”

Isobel Thomson, chief executive of safeagent, added: “This is a victory for common sense – we are pleased Hounslow Council took on board the issues we raised about the validity of their proposed scheme.  

“It is important that councils do not just automatically view licensing as the panacea for all ills in the PRS.  

“There are other existing options at their disposal which could be used more sensibly and would not involve the cost or the level of administration that licensing does.”

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    The Councillors and Officials should have to pay all the associated legal costs of this debacle but of course they'll get off scot free, keep their jobs and leave the council tax payers to pick up the tab!

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