The council’s proposed Selective Licensing Scheme has been given the thumbs down by many landlords and landlord associations who say they cannot be held responsible for policing anti-social tenants.
Hastings Borough Council (HBC) proposes to introduce a Selective Licensing Scheme (SLS) on privately rented homes in up to 10 electoral wards (Braybrooke, Castle, Central and West St Leonards, Gensing, Maze Hill, Old Hastings, Ore, Silverhill, and Tressell). If implemented, the licence will cost landlords around £500 per property paid up front, and run for a period of five years. The idea behind the scheme is to filter out rogue landlords, improve standards of privately rented properties and tackle anti-social behaviour. HBC leader Jeremy Birch said: “Hastings has a far higher percentage of privately rented accommodation than other towns in the area and we want to improve the quality and management of this accommodation and drive up standards in the town. Our evidence suggests that higher levels of anti-social behaviour are a feature where high density private renting exists within the town and that’s why we are considering the scheme.”
However, Mike Stimpson, of Southern Landlords Association (SLA), which has represented landlords in Hastings and St Leonards for 40 years, says there is little evidence to back the council’s claims and the scheme is flawed. He said: “In our opinion HBC has not considered recent legislation giving it and the police significant powers to deal with anti-social behaviour (ASB) which in our view negates the need for further licensing.
“The Anti-Social Behaviour and Policing Act 2014 gives both police and local authorities, together with some housing associations considerable powers and requirements to deal with ASB. Private landlords are not included as being able to carry out the functions available to those bodies. Landlords have little power to control ASB. They can only warn tenants and if no improvement occurs seek eviction.”
He added: “The reference to housing standards are not part of selective licensing and therefore inappropriate to be included in the consultation.”
Mr Stimpson said during the consultation period - which ended on January 5, 2015 - SLA had not been informed of the scheme nor invited to any council meetings. In addition he says there is already an existing additional licensing scheme for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in the town, which came into force in 2011, and to date HBC has not published any reports on the effectiveness of the scheme. He added: “It is irresponsible that the local authority has, it appears, chosen to not have a report showing whether the scheme is meeting the targets set.”
Hastings landlord and builder Dennis Sanders is against the scheme. He said: “HBC was supposed to have written to every landlord about the proposed SLS so that everyone affected could have their say but I was not informed and neither were other landlords I’ve spoken to. The council states that there is anti-social problems in 10 wards, these are mainly HMOs on council estates. A landlord cannot be held responsible for the actions of tenants.”