Council proposes crackdown on criminal landlords

Estate agent signs. Pic: ELL

Estate agent signs. Pic: ELL

Non-licensed landlords in Croydon could face fines of up to £20,000 if a controversial, council-led scheme to crackdown on rogue proprietors goes ahead.

A Better Place to Rent aims to improve conditions in private rented accommodation by forcing all Croydon landlords to obtain a licence.

To be eligible for a licence landlords must meet strict criteria including being “fit and proper” in relation to past criminal convictions; demonstrating procedures for dealing with anti-social behaviour; having satisfactory management standards and safely providing utilities.

The council may introduce licensing for private property in areas where there is low demand or significant antisocial behaviour.

The council have deemed all areas of the borough to be eligible for licensing, due to increased private renting in Croydon which has resulted in “poor quality homes, noise litter, fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour”.

The cost of the proposed licence will be £1,000 per property, with fines of £5,000 if landlords fail to comply with licence conditions and £20,000 if landlords fail to apply and continue to rent out their property.

Residents and landlords questioned the scheme in a council meeting in September. One attendee said: “I’m worried [the licence] could end up penalising the good landlords as well as the criminals.”

“It’s a huge amount of money which is effectively going to be passed on to the tenant who will have to find an extra £200 rent every year.”

“It doesn’t seem right that we are charging landlords, the majority of whom aren’t going to be criminals, when actually all you need to do is go into buildings suspected to be of a low standard and use the existing legislation available to councils.”

Alison Butler, deputy leader of Croydon Council with responsibilities for homes and regeneration, replied: “There’s no need for any landlord to pass on [licence costs] to the tenant, but there is a risk they would do.”

“What I would say is that rents have gone up in Croydon over the years far higher than that fee.”

Newham Council adopted a similar scheme last year. All private landlords must pay £150 for a five-year licence in order to rent out their property.

Since implementing the scheme, Newham Council have raised £6.5 million from licensing. During this time they have completed 1,997 inspections on unlicensed properties and the council is seeking to prosecute 134 landlords. Their fines could potentially reach £12,000 each.

However, Steve O’Connell, Conservative GLA member for Croydon and Sutton, tweeted this morning:

Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Central Croydon has condemned the scheme saying: “It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen if this scheme goes ahead: landlords who make the payment will simply pass the cost on to their tenants.”

“Lest I be accused of scaremongering, the council admits this, though the admission is buried 19 pages into its report.”

A June report detailing the Selective Licensing Scheme in Croydon admitted: “tenants may…be impacted by an increase in their housing costs as landlords seek to pass on some or all of the costs of licensing through higher rent levels”.

However, Butler has defended the scheme saying: “We want to make Croydon a better place to rent. I have spoken to many tenants who fear reporting their poor housing conditions as they feel they risk losing their homes.”

“We want to get a better deal for private tenants – and for landlords too. A landlord with a licence means a landlord who is responsible, takes care of his/her property, and tenants too”.

Croydon Council is urging residents to have their say about whether the scheme will go ahead or not by entering a consultation, which will run from November 17 to December 12. A forum event will take place at the Conference Centre on Surrey Street at 6:00pm on November 27.

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