Good landlords should support Croydon Council’s the proposed private rental landlord licensing scheme as part of a package of measures to deal with bad landlords, argues Croydon resident Sean Creighton in his submission to the consultation which ended on Friday 12 December. The majority of landlords completing the consultation survey and those attending the consultation meeting on 27 November said they wanted action against bad landlords.
Given this week’s High Court judicial review finding against Enfield’s planned licensing scheme, the submission suggests that the Scrutiny & Oversight Committee should hold a review of the Croydon consultation process in the light of the decision and the outcome of Enfield’s planned appeal.
The submission discusses the Croydon consultation process, who landlords are, the lack of detailed information the Council has about the nature of the private rented sector, the different concentrations of private tenanted property within wards using Norbury as an example, the grounds for landlords’ objections to the proposed scheme, the degree of low level of demand for private rented properties, and the anti-social behaviour issues which the Council is seeking to base the scheme.
Sean’s recommendations to improve the licensing scheme include:
(1) offering free registration to the licensing scheme s to those landlords who join one of the Council’s private sector leasing schemes (Croybond, Croylease), or enter similar agreements with housing associations.
(2) introducing a two tier fee so that landlords who are members of recognised associations and who only use as lettings agents those registered under one of the three ombudsman schemes will pay a lower fee than the proposed £750. Those not so registered will pay a higher fee (with no discounts), the latter to be set at a figure higher than membership of a recognised landlord association and the highest of the ombudsman schemes. The proposed discounts should only be available to the first tier landlords.
(3) requiring landlords to register for the licence covering their lettings or management agents so as to enable landlords to change their agents within the 5 year period without the need to seek a new licence.
(4) publishing the register recording property address and name and address of landlord and lettings/management agent, so that tenants and prospective tenants and their advisors can check on registration status.
He also recommends a package of further actions in addition to the licensing scheme including:
(1) publishing the details of what action its officers have been taking since 1 October 2014 to check that all lettings agents and property manager service providers to private landlords are either now registered with one of the three Government approved ombudsman schemes or are in the process of registering, and what action is it planned to take against those who do not register by 31 December. (Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Services Property or the Property Redress Scheme.)
(2) initiating CPO action against landlords who are convicted of breaches of legal requirements.
(3) monitoring on a quarterly basis action on private rented housing on open agenda by the Cabinet or the Scrutiny Committee.
(4) assisting the formation of private tenants groups in the area based on (a) shared landlord; (b) shared lettings/management agent; (c) same neighbourhood to improve their ability to negotiate with landlords and agents and to feed information to relevant Council officers.
(5) adopting an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights allowing change of use to HMOs so as to control their spread, as advised by the Government.
(6) developing an overall strategy to include good practice ideas recommended by Shelter.
He also recommends joint research with other local authorities into the many company groups and networks which operate in Croydon and elsewhere. His research into the public register of regulated rents in Croydon set by the Valuation Office Agency shows that:
- 66% are owned by property companies, many of them are linked through common Directorships with other property companies,
- 31% are owned by three interlocking groups of companies.
- several properties are owned by individuals who are also Directors of property companies.
- the Directors of some lettings agents have linked Directorships with the registered landlords.
Copies of the submission in pdf format can be obtained on request: firstname.lastname@example.org