overseas living

24 Nov 23

A landlord says she has been told by a council to start eviction proceedings against her tenants after experiencing problems with its licensing system.

Louise Jones, 53, said she had been “losing sleep” since Greenwich Council brought in a “punitive and aggressive” selective licensing scheme.

Ms Jones said she may have to sell her two flats if she can’t find a solution.

Greenwich Council said the scheme “is designed to protect tenants and landlords”.

Ms Jones, who did not wish to be pictured, used to live in south-east London and currently resides in Canada. She rents out her former home as well as an investment property in the borough of Greenwich.

Her problems began last year, she said, when Greenwich Council introduced the scheme, which tells landlords they “must have a licence to rent single-household properties” in certain areas.

‘Greenwich doesn’t care about your profits’

As part of the application process, she claims the council is telling foreign landlords they “have to have an individual who is the licence-holder with a UK address, which goes on to a public register even if it’s not an HMO (house in multiple occupation), and they have to do a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check”.

She emphasised that her only two living relatives, her mother and aunt, were in their 90s – and none of her friends would feel comfortable being nominated given the responsibility.

“We haven’t committed a crime… we’re just people who bought a flat as a good plan for retirement,” she said.

“You cannot be a foreign landlord and rent these properties.”

Additionally, Ms Jones pointed out other “ridiculous” council policies – including making landlords buy a sophisticated fire alarm system she said were usually only required in commercial properties; and an ambiguous requirement for a fire-risk assessment of the whole property and all public spaces.

“I had no answer to my request for clarity on this,” she explained, adding: “One of my flats is in a 20-storey tower block.”

Ms Jones claims that after 75 emails back and forth between herself and council employees they are still no closer to getting answers.

When she queried the stringent standard of fire alarm needed she says a council employee told her: “Greenwich doesn’t care about your profits.”

After she raised concerns about not getting a licence soon, she said a council manager told her: “If you give your tenants an eviction order you can then apply for something which buys you six months.”

“No landlord wants to do that,” she said, accusing Greenwich Council of not caring about her tenants.

“I would have just made someone homeless for no point, no reason.”

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said the local authority “do not ask landlords to evict tenants and seek to ensure that our residents have a safe and secure home”.

‘Tried to be good landlords’

Ms Jones and her husband were planning to retire back to Britain, but she said their plans were now “under threat” and she might have to sell the flats.

“I’ve been losing sleep over it – I’m self-employed, I have no pension,” she said.

“We’ve tried to be good landlords. Every option we’ve thought of won’t work.”

She has now applied for licences but has complained about her experience to the council.

A council spokesperson responded saying it could not comment on individual cases, adding: “Comprehensive safety regulations protect everybody involved in the agreement.

“Our Selective Licensing scheme follows an extensive consultation where we welcomed feedback from landlords and tenants.”

The spokesperson added the scheme is designed to “drive up private rented sector housing standards” in line with national regulations.

Link to original article

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