Green and Labour councillors have recommitted to working towards the selective licensing of private landlords in Brighton and Hove.
The move follows protests from tenants’ union Acorn, with councillors saying that it was a commitment made in both political parties’ election manifestos in 2019.
Green and Labour members of the Housing Committee voted to restate the commitment and seek funding to support research into finding the evidence needed to set up a licensing scheme.
In 2017 Brighton and Hove City Council tried to introduce selective licensing of private properties to support those living in properties affected by anti-social behaviour or in poor condition.
But the government withdrew support for the scheme to register private landlords in 2018.
Conservative councillor Anne Meadows, who chaired the Housing Committee as a Labour councillor when the council previously tried to set up a licensing scheme, was concerned about the lack of funding for a selective licensing scheme.
She told the council’s Housing Committee yesterday (Wednesday 22 September) that when the council tried to set up a scheme before, 99 per cent of private rented homes were of a decent standard. This did not fit with the government’s concerns about unfit properties.
Councillor Meadows said: “It was a stretch but we tried. To do it again, it’s not considered to be good value for money.
“Yet you (Green and Labour) state a commitment towards introducing selective licencing. If you know you can’t do it – and you know you can’t – I feel you’re not being honest with your constituents.”
She suggested that the commitment to introducing selective licensing for private rented homes was more about appeasing Acorn.
Conservative Mary Mears said that the Labour and Green move was “misleading” campaigners because the good standard of private housing locally was the reason why the government would not back a licensing scheme.
She said: “I’ve seen the demonstrators outside – and you need to appease campaigners.
“It’s really misleading that you are indicating that you can do something when you weren’t allowed to do it before. I don’t think anything in the city has changed since then.”
Green councillor David Gibson said that the previous licensing scheme required government approval and would have covered more than 20 per cent of properties.
He said that the council was looking at licensing fewer than 20 per cent of private landlords and this would not require government approval.
Councillor Gibson said: “People believe – and I agree from my own experience – that there is a need. And licensing is not the be all and end all but it is something that will benefit a lot of people.
“We agree there is a need for it but we need to understand exactly what is needed in order to justify a scheme and an application.”
Labour councillor Gill Williams told the Housing Committee that nearly half of renters in the south east had suffered illegal acts by landlords and experience poor conditions.
In Brighton and Hove, research from Citizens Advice provided “damning” evidence on the plight of renters.
In Brunswick and Adelaide, St Peter’s and North Laine, Regency and Queen’s Park wards, she said that private rented homes were among the worst for repair and maintenance problems.
Councillor Williams said: “Over one third of our residents live in the private rental sector on short-term tenancies.
“If they complain, they risk losing their tenancy. If they make a complaint, they are out on their ear, and I see this time and time again. People are afraid to come forward.
“If we have landlord licensing, that means the tenants have some back up from the licensing schedules and the council.”
Conservative councillors abstained from the vote.
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