Wednesday, October 25, 2017

News: Rotherham's selective licensing back on the agenda

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Rotherham Council is putting together a business case for the introduction of further selective licensing designations to tackle the low housing demand and significant and persistent levels of antisocial behaviour related to the private rented sector.

The authority has already designated four areas as Selective Licensing areas where a licence fee for each property must be paid for by the landlord or agent and where each licence contains a set of conditions that the landlord must meet.

Now housing officers are due to present a business case for further selective licensing designations and are hoping for backing from the Council's cabinet next month.

Utilising powers under the Housing Act 2004, the designations came into force on May 1 2015 and will last for five years. The areas are: Eastwood, Masbrough, Dinnington and Maltby South East as these have been deemed, or are likely to become, areas of low housing demand.

Nearly 2,000 licence applications have been made. The £1.2m income is expected to cover the costs of administration of the scheme over the five year period.

Following consultation, the council's cabinet approved in December 2014 the licensing of privately rented properties in selected areas with the aim of improving conditions for local tenants and the surrounding community. This was despite the council's own Improving Places Select Commission preferring a landlord led, voluntary, borough-wide, quality landlord scheme as an alternative to mandatory selective licensing.

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Further designations would require further public consultation. Details on timescales and the areas that would come under selective licensing have not yet been published but the cabinet decision would affect all wards in the borough.

The 2014 consultation results showed 63% of the total respondents were in favour of the proposals, with the vast majority of those in support being residents. Concerns over the costs of licences were raised, predominantly from landlords, that the licensing fee per property (around £600) is too much. Also that, expecting payment upfront, would severely affect landlord's businesses.

A legal challenge brought by local landlords was defeated in 2015.

A review of the scheme was carried out earlier this year. It showed that 76% of licensable properties had applied but enforcement action was required to reach an objective of 95%.

The review also showed that housing conditions across the designated areas are generally substandard at the initial Council inspection but following the rigorous inspection and enforcement process, landlords are choosing to improve properties.

Rotherham Council website

Images: RMBC

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