Private landlord register mooted by council

Posted On 31 Jul 2014 at 10:49 am
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Would a register of private city landlords be a good idea? That’s what Brighton and Hove City Council is asking in its new housing survey.

Estate agents advertising boards by Bob Prosser on Flickr

Estate agents advertising boards by Bob Prosser on Flickr

The idea has been praised by Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas who says that if linked to a mandatory licensing scheme, it would raise living standards for tenants across the city.

Writing on her blog, she said: “This is based on the experience of hearing time and again from constituents about the poor state of their rented housing: the families with children whose bedrooms have mould on the walls; the students who find paint peeling to reveal damp within a few months of moving in; the tenants who come to me after their landlord has refused to carry out repairs.

“A register of landlords, linked to a mandatory licensing scheme, would introduce standards and improve quality, highlighting the many responsible landlords and pulling up the standards of those whose currently poor practice gives private sector renting a bad name.”

But Brighton estate agent Paul Bonett has a more cautious view. He said: “A register of local private sector landlords would help tenants to know these landlords and their properties have been benchmarked.

“However, it is a complicated area.  There are no typical PSLs: they can range from the very experienced long term professional landlord to the one off landlord renting a property because he or she cannot sell it.

“There are masses of small scale players in the rental business.  So, managing such a scheme would be very complex.

“It should not be made compulsory without full 360 degree consultation and without the staff in place to ensure it does not cause blockages in the rental market when there is high demand.”

Now it’s over to you – click here to have your say.

The survey asks a range of questions on housing issues such as affordable housing, HMO licensing, empty homes and student housing.

But it is the private rental question which floats the idea of a specific strategy.

As background, the survey says: “There is a growing private rented sector in the city with 30% of households living in a home that is privately rented.

“This percentage rises to nearly 60% in some areas of the city and we are aware that some of the most vulnerable households can be living in this tenure.

“Private Sector Housing Team work to improve housing conditions in private rented and owner occupied homes through renewal advice, assistance and enforcement; improving Home Energy Efficiency, improving thermal comfort and reducing fuel poverty and CO2 emissions through home energy efficiency measures.

“In 2011, government funding for private sector renewal ceased but the Team has been able to continue the private sector renewal work at a reduced capacity through the council funding its own programme.

“Since 2009/10 a total of £9,018,000 has been invested in the private sector enabling nearly 4,500 homes to be made decent or moved towards decency.”

It then simply asks: “Would the introduction of a register of all private sector landlords in the city be a good idea?”

Renting in Brighton and Hove is expensive – the council’s research puts the cost of renting a one bedroom flat at around £810 per month and a three bedroom house around £1,430 per month. The city also has a higher rate of overcrowding in its private sector than nationally.

The survey also asks about the impact of new regulations imposed on landlords of houses of multiple occupation, or HMOs.

In 2012, the council introduced additional licensing in areas of Brighton and Hove where HMOs are concentrated, which has so far affected 1,756 properties.

It also highlights some interesting facts and figures about the city’s housing situation.

  • Council research has identified that the average cost to buy a one bedroom flat is around £190,000 and to buy a three bedroom house is around £340,000. 
  • Since April 2009 a total of 553 new affordable homes have been completed and funded through the National Affordable Housing Programme, with seven schemes providing another 371 homes due to complete this year or next.
  • £11m has been invested to allow about 5,000 vulnerable people to work towards or maintain independent living.
  • The council’s housing stock has all now reached Decent Homes Standard through improvements such as new kitchens and bathrooms, boilers, windows, insulation and solar installations.
  • The 2011 Census reported there were 29,809 households with dependent children living in the city, representing around 25% of the total households. 57% of these households were home owners, 19% were living in social rented homes and 22% were living in homes in the private rented sector.
  • 24% of all overcrowded households living in the city had dependent children, and of these 24% (1,221) were owner occupiers or shared ownership households, 28% (1,900) were living in social rented homes and 38% (1,907) were living in the private rented sector.  
  • Although the number of the city’s households with children aged 0 to 15 who have a disability is small, they are more likely to be living in overcrowded homes.
  • 101 homes were re-let by the council’s scheme to move under-occupying tenants who wanted to move to a smaller home in 2013/14.

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