Momentum is building against councils pushing ahead with licensing schemes despite the pandemic.
Earlier this week ARLA Propertymark, the letting agents’ trade body, accused many councils of being ”socially irresponsible” and now safeagent, the lettings agency accreditation body, has called for a pause.
In April last year - shortly after the scale of the pandemic became clear - the government advised there should be a pause on new additional and selective licensing schemes.
Since then, several councils have resumed new schemes requiring thousands of licence applications to be prepared.
safeagent, working with the London Property Licensing service, is calling on the government to do three things.
Firstly, a further six-month moratorium by the government on new selective schemes; secondly a review by local councils on whether licensing scheme designations made but not yet in force should be withdrawn or delayed.
Thirdly, and allied to the pause on licensing, safeagent wants a six month delay on new electrical safety standards being introduced for existing tenancies, pushing the deadline out until October 1.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 require all occupied private rented homes in England to have an Electrical Inspection Condition Report by April 1 – an estimated 4.5m households.
“Now is not the right time to implement any new licensing schemes or electrical safety regulations. Not only do they add pressure to much needed resource, they necessitate thousands of extra property inspections, which create too much risk of transmission, even with precautions. We believe there should be a blanket delay of both across England” explains Isobel Thomson, chief executive of safeagent.
“This needs to happen response to the latest stage of the outbreak. If the date for evictions can be delayed, surely the implementation date for electrical checks can also be put back?” she asks.
And Richard Tacagni, managing director of London Property Licensing, adds:
“Now is not the time for electricians to inspect electrical installations in every private rented home in England, yet it is a legal requirement for landlords to do so by April 1. Even with the best safety measures, electricians must enter every room, touch sockets, switches and other electrical fittings before moving onto the next occupied property.
‘Likewise, pausing new licensing schemes will avoid people having to enter private rented properties to prepare floorplans, measure room sizes and collect the information needed to apply. Undertaking these inspections will place tenants at increased risk of infection.”