Some landlords are considering evicting tenants rather than paying a licence fee just weeks before the selective licence scheme becomes mandatory for residential rental properties in Bootle.
The scheme, which came into effect in March 2018 and gives landlords until September 1 of this year to secure their licence, has been introduced to ensure certain standards are maintained in privately rented property and to prevent rogue landlords from taking advantage of vulnerable tenants.
All rented homes other than those classed as being exempt from the scheme will require a licence.
However, Danielle Hughes, solicitor at Kirwans law firm said some landlords are considering making a stand against the £695 fee and are planning to evict tenants and leave properties empty instead.
Danielle said: “There are landlords, particularly those whose tenants are in rent arrears, who have objected to paying the hundreds of pounds required to apply for a licence and are considering cutting their losses and instead asking tenants to leave.
“For those struggling to find the fee, the obvious answer may be to withdraw their property from the rental market and so avoid payment; however, after factoring into the calculations a rise in council tax, costs of seeking possession via court and the associated costs of leaving a property vacant in terms of potential vandalism and deterioration, it may not actually make financial sense to do so.
“The licence, once secured, will last until February 28, 2023, and there are discounts available for multiple properties and for those landlords that belong to accreditation schemes, so it is important to weigh up all factors before making a decision to serve notice on a tenant.
“Those choosing to continue renting their property must obtain a licence by September 1 of this year. A failure to do so is a criminal offence and can lead to devastating consequences, including prosecution from the local council, unlimited criminal fines, a ban on renting out property and the possibility of tenants and/or the council applying for a ‘rent repayment order’ that could see them recovering rent paid as a further punishment to the landlord for failing to secure the licence.”
"There are some landlords who have objected to paying the hundreds of pounds required to apply for a licence and are considering eviction instead."
Under section 80 of the Housing Act 2004, a local housing authority can designate part or all of an area as subject to Selective Licensing. The licensing then applies to privately rented property in the area.
Local authorities may choose to do this in order to crack down on anti-social behaviour problems in the area, or if there is low housing demand.
The scheme has been active in Liverpool city centre since April 1, 2015 and in areas of the Wirral from July 1, 2015. Landlords in those areas have, however, questioned whether the licensing scheme has done anything to improve the private rental market.
Danielle said: “Whether or not landlords agree with the scheme, it is mandatory and is here to stay for the next five years.
“Once those landlords affected apply for a licence, the council will carry out checks into whether they are ‘fit and proper’ to be a landlord, as well as setting out requirements around the management of the property.”
There are some circumstances in which properties don’t require a licence, including homes let to tenants of housing associations, where some places are specifically excluded from the legislation such as care homes, and student accommodation directly managed by educational institutions.
HMOs that require licensing through Sefton’s Mandatory HMO licensing scheme are subject to a separate regime. Households that act as host families for foreign students studying for a short period, homes with lodgers, and homes subject to management orders and exemption notices are also exempt.
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