Property Licensing run by hundreds of separate local authorities looks just as confusing on the other side of the fence (that is the landlords’ side) as it does for tenants.
In the last piece I wrote about licensing I mentioned how complex the system is, with each local authority having different schemes, and many Councils having several different types of licensing within their own area. Some of these overlap, some have different requirements and they start and end at different times. There is also a huge variation in the fees each Council charges to landlords. How can this be, when all the schemes should involve roughly the same amount of work to process?
It gets worse. I was talking today with someone who is responsible for some of the new ‘Build to Rent’ schemes. These are mostly luxury, blocks of flats, sometimes high rise, with maybe 60 or 100 flats. Occasionally, such blocks are built by social housing landlords who will rent them at market rents and use the profits to build more social housing. Every flat requires a separate licensing application, even though, as newly built properties, they have already had to comply with loads of planning requirements as well as building regulations. If someone buys a new car, they don’t have to get an MoT for the first three years. Wouldn’t it be sensible to exempt new rented homes for the first few years?
Wouldn’t it also be sensible for a landlord to have one licence for the whole block of flats when the exemption ends? If 100 applications are submitted to the local Council, the Council has to spend our council tax money processing all one hundred of them instead of just one. And while they are doing all that pen-pushing (or computer clicking), they are not taking action to address the very real problems in the older properties that most renters occupy.
So, back to my argument about why Property Licensing should be run nationally.
The landlord with the block of flats could submit one licence, BUT he should also have obtained a surveyor’s report covering all of the flats. Surveyors could be required to submit their reports directly to the National Licensing body, just as the MoT garage sends the MoT certificate to the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency.
Similarly, all the other people who provide evidence that landlords now have to submit themselves, such as the Gas Safe certificate, Deposit Protection, Energy Performance Certificate, etc, etc, could all be submitted to the central licensing body. Even better, there could be an automatic link between the national licensing body and HMRC, so the tax officers could check whether the landlord is declaring his rental income for tax purposes. I suspect that the additional revenue that this would generate for the Government would pay for the whole licensing system. That would mean a lower licence fee and no excuse for landlords to try to recoup the licence fee by putting tenants’ rents up.
I will return to this theme in April, but if I have already convinced you, please sign up to support the idea. It will strengthen our argument to the Government if we can show that lots of renters support it.