North Somerset Head of Housing says landlords may need to raise rents by 1%
Following this mornings BBC Bristol Radio interview, regarding the impending WSM landlord licence, the Head of Housing for North Somerset Council has said landlords ‘might need to put their rents up by 1%’ in order to cover the licence cost.
This mornings BBC Bristol Radio Interview with Emma Britton:
Landlords in the centre of Weston super mare will soon need a licence to show that their properties meet council standards. North Somerset says the scheme, which will cost £320 per property, will improve living conditions for people who rent privately.
Mark Hughes, Head of Housing and Director of Governors at North Somerset Council said:
‘The scheme will basically require all landlords of privately rented properties to licence with the council by the 1st of November. We’ll put conditions on the licence which will require landlords to ensure that the properties are well managed and are in a good condition, and healthy and safe for the tenants.’
Emma Britton: ‘Can you explain why these are being introduced; why these changes are being made?’
Hughes: ‘Yes, historically we’ve received high numbers of complaints from tenants about their poor housing conditions. For example, in 2014 we received 750 complaints and the majority of those complaints were from tenants living in Weston-super-Mare and we know the landlords know about the standards that the homes are supposed to meet, because there’s been lots of information provided over many years – yet we still find properties are failing to meet those standards.’
Emma Britton: ‘This new form of licensing has been met with anger by some landlords who say they are being unfairly penalised. Paul Routledge is a landlord who has more than 100 properties in Weston and Wales and is the founder of Tenant Referencing UK.
What are your concerns, apart from cost?’
Paul Routledge: ‘Cost is obviously a big factor, but selective licensing has been introduced across the country and it’s not proven to work at all, it’s simply the council taking a big stick and thrashing around in the community trying to find the landlords that are habitually a problem in keeping their properties together. But actually if you look across the board, you’ll see that the majority of landlords do comply and therefore it is very unfair.
I have 60 properties in the area that they are licensing, of which they’re asking £300 per property. Over the last five years I’ve spent over half a million pounds doing them up, I have fantastic tenants in there and they didn’t respond to the consultation process because they didn’t feel they needed to because it wasn’t going to affect them; they were all good tenants.
So the question is, first and foremost: Why am I being expected to pay £320 per property when I’ve already done this investment, so that the council can find a few rogues? And then of course it comes down to the fact that we’re not going to pay it; we’re going to offset it to the tenants and we’ll issue the tenants with Section 13 notices (to increase the rent).
So landlords across that area have started a Facebook group called Somerset Property Network, that has got over 120 subscribers since it was started 2 weeks ago and they’ve all said the same thing; they’ll issue Section 13 notices to increase rents and then they will get the tenants to pay the bill.’
Emma Britton: ‘As a landlord of multiple properties people will appreciate you’re getting quite a good income from that, you’ve done investment as well which we’ve talked about. Is it more the case that you don’t want to cough up for something that’s going to secure a blanket good service for private renters in the future…?’
Paul: ‘Its nothing to do with us, the problem is that the government is trying (again) to tar all landlords with the same brush…’
Emma Britton: ‘But not all landlords are perfect are they?…’
Paul: ‘No, but not all shop keepers are perfect. We don’t all turn round to Marks and Spencer in Weston-super-Mare and say pay £1,000 because there’s a fella down the market selling dodgy shirts! The fact of the matter is that they have the ability in legislation to already target these landlords. You know, for instance, the raid in Weston this week. There were 34 people charged; those people didn’t come through us. We’re data sharing, there’s an option for landlords to do that…
The point with selective licensing is that the government has already specifically stated that selective licensing must be a last resort and that the council needs to look at accreditation’s, workshops, online support groups, compulsory tenant registration, etc so that they can track the tenants; where they’re going and what have you. Not to just simply turn round and blanket (the town).
So the government has given these guidelines in the review of selective licencing, of which I can guarantee you North Somerset Council have done nothing. In fact, the consultation process North Somerset council has taken has actually become perfunctory in its ability to be able to prove what it’s supposed to prove.’
Emma Britton: ‘It sounds to me that you’ve got beef with North Somerset Council…’
Paul: ‘No I haven’t got beef with North Somerset Council, what we’ve got beef with is that our local authority is not dealing with the problem properly and then taking a big stick…’
Emma Britton: ‘What’s your solution?’
Paul: ‘The solution is; I went to North Somerset council 7 years ago with a data sharing scheme called Landlord Referencing and I said to them if all of the landlords in Weston-super-Mare had the ability to share data legally, which we did, then we would be able to identify problem areas, stop multiple applications, stop anti social behaviour and root out and deal with the landlords…’
Emma Britton: ‘How does that stop bad landlords? They’re not going to share are they?…’
Paul: ‘We’re talking about the bad landlords being a minority here, not a majority. The problem here is that everyone goes ‘oh my god, bad landlords…’; they are such a minority and the council knows who they are. For instance they say they’ve had 750 reports. OK, once you break those 750 reports down lets look at the real reports and not the ones who are making complaints to the council because they’re trying to get a council property, etc, etc. Break them down, those tenants are making reports – isn’t it logical that those tenants then give the landlord to the council and the council goes along and serves a notice of improvement? They have all these tools at their disposal already, the problem is they don’t want to use them because it costs money. So what they’re trying to do is turn round and say ‘actually the best way to do this is just blanket them all, we’ll get £32,000 or £1m off all the local good landlords and then we’ll be able to prove that we’re doing something’.’
Emma Britton: ‘We’ll put your points to Mark Hughes a little bit later …’
Mark Hughes: ‘If you look at the charge over a period of five years it equates to £1.23 a week, so that’s roughly 1% of the rent for a 2 bedroom property in Weston-super-Mare and that’s the lowest rent levels you would find.
Some landlords have said that they’re going to increase their rents by 10% and I struggle to understand why they’d need to do that. They might need to put their rents up by 1% to cover this cost which would be a negligible cost.’
Landlords and private renting tenants; how do you feel about this? We would love to hear from you, so please click here to get involved in the live discussion now!