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Spotlight on council licensing schemes in new report

An industry supplier is analysing licensing schemes and whether they achieve anything to improve rental housing standards.

Yuno says questions need to be asked about licensing schemes which overlap with proposals in the Renters Reform Bill - are they duplicating their purpose and cost, for example.

Company chief executive Paul Conway says: “Our findings reveal that 25% of local authorities in England, and 36% of local authorities in Wales, are enforcing Additional HMO and/or Selective Licensing schemes. These schemes are far from evenly distributed across regions, prompting the question as to why some regions have a significantly higher proportion of councils enforcing them.”


Yuno will be holding a roundtable to determine the effectiveness of expensive licensing schemes in raising housing standards and is offering the opportunity for landlords to join in. 

Conway continues: “Our data analysis shows a lack of such schemes in regions with a relatively higher proportion of non-decent homes, and a higher proportion of such schemes in regions with some of the lowest proportions of non-decent homes.

“This begs the question as to the role of licensing in causing housing standards to improve. For example, is the relatively high housing standards in London due to a higher proportion of discretionary licensing schemes or because it has a substantial premium homes market?”

Further scrutiny reveals discrepancies in licensing fees among London councils, with some councils charging up to 200% more for identical licenses. 

Conway claims that some councils charge more for Selective or Additional HMO Licenses than others do even for Mandatory HMO Licenses and he says this lack of uniformity poses questions as to cost-effectiveness and justifications for wide-ranging fees.

To apply to join the roundtable, or input, details can be found here (https://forms.gle/tdiYELaF2cPZmbZZ6)

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    Good LLs pay & pass the cost on to their tenants. Bad LLs don’t bother! Very few properties in Nottingham were improved after 5 yrs of SL but rents had increased significantly!


    Exactly, Tricia. We are running a business, not a charity.

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    I suspect a lot of it is due to the value of the property and the cost of carrying out improvements.
    A house in an old mining town in County Durham can cost as little as £25K. How much does a terraced house cost in London?
    Installing a heating system, double glazing or insulation is going to cost roughly the same all over the country. In the South it is far more likely that carrying out improvements would increase the value of the house by more than the cost of the improvements. It is also more likely a house in the South will have sufficient equity in it for it to be possible to obtain a further advance to fund such improvements.
    In certain parts of the country it is far less likely improvements would make economic sense.
    Even looking at it from a working tenants perspective the economic argument is questionable in the North. The amount rent would need to increase to cover the cost of eco upgrades far exceeds the relatively small amount they're paying extra for the 4 or 5 months winter utility bills.

    I'm not convinced licensing makes much difference in terms of decent homes standards. Some houses have always been well presented, others squalid. Licensing schemes aren't especially interested in the general presentation, just the amenities. As landlords we go through the checklist and carry out all the required work. We install fire doors with self closers (which the tenants hate and wedge open). We install full fire alarm systems (which tenants don't understand and 'accidentally' deactivate). We have licensing notices displayed in communal areas regarding clear fire exit routes (so they fill the hallway with bicycles and shoe mountains). We install trickle vents to provide ventilation and help prevent mould (so they keep them shut). We provide suitable heating systems (which they may or may not use).
    We have complied with the terms of the licence but whether it has improved anything for tenants is questionable, especially the fire safety aspects. The kit only works if it is used correctly and that is something no licensing scheme can guarantee.

    There is also the argument that while Environmental Health Officers are inspecting licensed properties that are likely to be compliant they aren't available to inspect seriously problematic properties. There is already a system of fines in place for substandard properties, so wouldn't it make more sense to have a very light touch on the decent properties to free up time for the substandard ones? Most HMOs are owned by portfolio landlords and the Councils are fully aware of which landlords need most input.

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    Jo. I agree with most of what you say which is correct as regards to HMO’s, you could easily be a HMO Inspector. They do wedge the door open, they do tie a plastic bag over fire alarms, they do close the vents, they do bend the window restrictors to disengage unnecessarily to open fully, they do open windows to max then pull in by one corner and bend the hinges etc . We do have emergency lighting on Every level & also fire extinguishers on every level and annual Certificates for them and the fire alarm as well as annual Gas Service & Certificate's, we do have fire Blanket in kitchen’s and carbon monoxide detectors where required. We do have fire protection on stair spandals. We do have 5 year Domestic Electrical Inspections Condition Report. We do have pay £1’650.00 to Council for Application Fee for HMO License on a Semi-Detached that they do but sublet to metastreet Software Company that are worse than useless & takes over a year to deal with your Application.
    Anyway let’s take a look at a 1930’s Terraced on outskirts of London that’s
    £500k Jo try paying for that so its equal to 20 of the ones you referred to and it won’t be Compliant either how could it be, it was Built before the rules were invented, more likely to need £150k spent up dating don’t go far those days factor that in. When you have done all of that got your license all you are short now is the Sitting Tenant to walk in, install himself for life and tell you to peas off. They take us for some mugs and Mr Gove is fine with this. Jo the far away hills are greener.until you get there.

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    Last property I bought was basically a crack den with wiring sticking out of skirting-mounted sockets in the kids bedroom and rising damp. In a licensing scheme area. Cost a fortune to fix it and I now pay a license for the privilege while the slumlord before me paid nothing.

    Licensing schemes don't achieve anything because they were never intended to - it's just a tax that's ringfenced into funding for "jobs for the boys" for when local councillors need to bow out of politics into a lucrative job somewhere.


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