22 Jan 2021

Momentum is building against councils pushing ahead with licensing schemes despite the pandemic and despite instructions from the government not to. One wonders why so many councils are going against the Governments wishes and public health concern to instigate policies which, during the crisis will seriously increase the Covid risk to many tens of thousands of tenants and trades-persons in their districts.

Said Phil Turtle of Landlord Licensing & Defence, “Could it be that these councils  are only interested in the tens of £millions of revenue they can generate from licensing schemes that appear to do little or nothing to improve housing standards?  And the hundreds of £millions they will be able to generate between them from Civil Financial Penalty Fines – which we have watched become almost the sole-purpose of housing departments in council after council across the country? 

“You can be certain that’s the reason, Turtle continued,  “They have all discovered that fining landlords is the golden goose, the biggest cash-cow or gravy-train they could possibly dream of. They care about nothing that will stop them in the cynical pursuit of money. Why else would they go against the government and endanger the lives of tens of thousands of tenants?” Earlier this week ARLA Propertymark, the letting agents’ trade body, accused many councils of being ”socially irresponsible” and now safeagent, the lettings agency accreditation body, has called for a pause.

In April last year – shortly after the scale of the pandemic became clear – the government publicly advised councils that there should be a pause on new additional and selective licensing schemes. Since then, several councils have resumed new schemes requiring tens of thousands of licence applications to be prepared. 

Safeagent, working with the London Property Licensing service, is calling on the government to do three things.

Firstly, a further six-month moratorium by the government on new selective schemes; secondly a review by local councils on whether licensing scheme designations made but not yet in force should be withdrawn or delayed. 

Thirdly, and allied to the pause on licensing, safeagent wants a six month delay on new electrical safety standards being introduced for existing tenancies, pushing the deadline out until October 1.

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 require all occupied private rented homes in England to have an Electrical Inspection Condition Report by April 1 – an estimated 4.5m households.

“Now is not the right time to implement any new licensing schemes or electrical safety regulations. Not only do they add pressure to much needed resource, they necessitate thousands of extra property inspections, which create too much risk of transmission, even with precautions. We believe there should be a blanket delay of both across England” explains Isobel Thomson, chief executive of safeagent. 

“This needs to happen response to the latest stage of the outbreak. If the date for evictions can be delayed, surely the implementation date for electrical checks can also be put back?” she asks.

And Richard Tacagni, managing director of London Property Licensing, adds:

“Now is not the time for electricians to inspect electrical installations in every private rented home in England, yet it is a legal requirement for landlords to do so by April 1. Even with the best safety measures, electricians must enter every room, touch sockets, switches and other electrical fittings before moving onto the next occupied property. 

‘Likewise, pausing new licensing schemes will avoid people having to enter private rented properties to prepare floorplans, measure room sizes and collect the information needed to apply. Undertaking these inspections will place tenants at increased risk of infection.”

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