money

13 Feb 24

Bristol’s controversial Labour council is extending previous licensing schemes to other parts of the city at some £1,800 HMO per licence – and landlords are angry.

The Bristol Post news website reports that although the extension has now been agreed, details of the consultation that led to last week’s decision show extensive opposition from landlords and their allies.

Licences for HMOs will cost about £1,800 with discounts offered for relevant safety and energy performance certificates; licences for other privately rented homes in selected wards will cost £912, also with discounts on offer. 

Some 40 were cent of responses to the council’s consultation disagreed with the proposal – only 52 per cent agreed.

The Bristol Post reports that rental accreditation service Safeagent wrote to the council to express its concerns: “Bristol City Council’s figures suggest there are some 6,005 privately rented properties in the wards of Bishopston, Ashley Down, Cotham and Easton. The projected cost of implementation of the selective licensing scheme is quoted as £3.5 million. 

“The fee being proposed, £912, would generate a revenue of £5.48 million. Given that the local authority is not permitted to make a profit from any licensing scheme, the fee seems disproportionate to the cost, even allowing for the discounts that are available.

“There is a danger here that BCC will be perceived to be penalising good, conscientious and compliant landlords by imposing high licence fees on them, in order to subsidise the local authority in funding its obligations to enforce standards.”

And the Post also reports that Grainger, a large corporate landlord, responded to the consultation by writing: “Grainger is subject to numerous licensing schemes across different boroughs, however very few local authorities have attended any of our properties to complete inspections and check documents. In most situations there have been no formal checks and little work undertaken to ensure properties are of a suitable standard.

“With licensing schemes now costing Grainger in excess of £1m the additional cost of licensing is not insignificant and, with additional pressures on construction costs and finance rates, has the ability to have a major impact on project viability and housing delivery. This will likely lead to an increase in viability challenges to Section 106 and affordable housing contributions, as well as forcing many landlords to increase the rents charged to their customers.”

Councillor Kye Dudd, responsible for Bristol’s housing services, has told a meeting agreeing the fee hike: “We’re delivering on our manifesto commitment to expand landlord licensing schemes in the city. Our administration believes that having a safe and secure roof over your head is key to ensuring we all have the best opportunity to live a happy and healthy life. 

“This is a tool that will help us improve the quality and management of private rented properties. The evidence from the earlier schemes is clear: it has driven up standards. You might hear the landlord lobby complaining that this is just a tax and we’re trying to raise revenue, or whatever. But actually, it has driven up [standards]. We’ve got people going out inspecting properties, and it’s worked.”

The council’s Labour Mayor – Marvin Rees – is a long-time campaigner for the power to exercise rent controls over the private sector and now says he wants to be a MP on behalf of the party, following a public referendum which voted to abolish his Mayor’s position.

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