From 1 April 2015 all privately rented properties in Liverpool will be required to have a license. The controversial landlord licensing scheme was given the go-ahead by Liverpool City Council in October, prompting criticism from a number of the city’s landlords and letting agents.
Initial proposals price the licenses at £500 per property, with discounts available to portfolio landlords.
Ahead of implantation of the scheme, Your Move brought together Councillor Ann O’Byrne, cabinet member for housing and Darren Hardy, head of housing at Liverpool City Council with agents Louis Anastasiou of Andrew Louis and Steven Latham of Concentric Lettings to debate the topic.
AOB) Following the Mayoral elections, the Mayor signed that pledge to say it’s extremely important that we need to tackle rogue landlords in the city. We then had to look at how we could achieve this. That’s when we began discussing the idea of a licensing scheme, and how one could be implemented. You could have selective licensing where you target one or two wards, but then how does that affect the other wards? And given that we have a private rental sector quite heavily within this city and it’s spread across the city, we thought the most effective way to do it was to do a citywide licensing scheme because we have no idea who the landlords are in this city.
We can estimate that there’s around about 50,000 private rental properties in the city but we have no idea who those landlords are and we’ve got no way of communicating with them. We know who our really good landlords are who have joined our CLASS system, (the accredited landlord licensing scheme) and we can engage with them. But the only way we will be able to tackle this is if we know who all the landlords are, so that’s why we decided to go for a citywide licensing scheme.
LA) We’re in total agreement with this and we’re advocates of regulations and offering a good standard of accommodation and maintaining that, but the process in our view is all wrong and it’s not just the implication of the licenses and the fee; my biggest concern is the conditions attached to the licence schemes.
We’ve been in consultation with Liverpool City Council for nearly seven months and I don’t think you’re listening. You’re not taking on board what we’re saying. We, as a group of licensed agents, probably represent around 20% of the stock in Liverpool city, and we’ve given you a proposal, we’ve not received a response on our proposal. This was given six months ago.
We work in the sector, we’re on the front line – work with us.
AOB) We did set up a landlord advisory group that I chair. We’ve got landlords from across the city, we’ve got the North West Landlords Association on that, we’ve got the National Landlords Association on that as well as a number of other landlords and agents that sit on that group and we have discussed this process right the way through.
LA) Are they licensed agents?
AOB) Yes, and they have come forward with ideas and that’s why things have changed. They highlighted a number of issues and concerns that they had so we went back and we modified it. That dialogue has been ongoing and continues to be ongoing. Then there’s been the public meetings that we’ve had and the meetings that we’ve attended on behalf of the National Landlord Association. There’s been a whole series of discussions that have gone on. We brought in independent consultants because it was important that the city didn’t lead on the consultation because that would have been seen to be unfair. They carried out that consultation and met with a whole range of landlords and agents as well as residents, residents’ groups, elected politicians and the social landlord sector, so there was a whole series of consultation meetings.
All that has been fed into that final report, and of course the big one was the actual fee itself. We had to go out with a figure because we were going out with that consultation, but of course through that process and working with our advisory group, we have been looking at what would enable our fee to be reduced. If we worked in collaboration, if landlords were a member of say the National Landlords Association or another body therefore they’ve got all that information, would that help reduce the fee? That’s part of the work that’s been ongoing that we’ll be presenting in the next few weeks on what the actual fee is going to be and what the conditions are going to be.