Wednesday, June 13, 2018

News: Next Rotherham area identified for selective licensing

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Rotherham Council is considering extending its selective licensing scheme to Parkgate 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.

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.

Now officers have progressed plans for the future designation of selective licensing areas and have targeted Parkgate. Cabinet support for extending the scheme will be sought in the coming months. Further designations would require further public consultation.

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.

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The overall number of properties now registered on the current scheme is 2,050, which is 87% of the 2,350 properties in designated licensing areas eligible to register on the scheme.

The Council's programme of inspections to test landlord compliance with the terms and conditions of the scheme saw 1,850 inspections completed by the end of March 2018.

94.2% of inspected properties comply with the standards the Council has set for landlords renting accommodation in the private rented sector, slightly below the 95% target.

Other statistics show that levels of anti-social behaviour have fallen significantly in the selective licensing areas, and at a faster rate than the Borough average. A reduction in the occupier turnover levels has also been seen but in some areas like in Masbrough or Eastwood, landlords appear to be keeping properties empty and avoiding licencing.

The Council estimates that the £1.4m income from applications is expected to cover the costs of administration of the scheme over the five year period.

In addition, £220,000 has been provided over two years under the Government's Controlling Migration Fund. This will provide additional grant funding to pay for projects supporting areas which are experiencing high levels of migration and unstable communities. It is also used for additional enforcement activity in the Selective Licensing Areas to help embed the improvements in these areas.

A recent update to the Council's cabinet said: "It is evident selective licensing has brought unprecedented and sustained improvements in the quality of accommodation in the private rented sector. Whilst performance is currently slightly off target giant strides are being made to bring about meaningful and lasting improvements to the lives of residents living in this sector housing in the borough.

"Compliance levels are expected to increase even higher following the introduction of additional powers and enforcement tools for the Council to use to ensure landlords bring properties up to standard or face larger monetary penalties. From March the Council has received additional powers to levy monetary penalties of up to £30,000 on non-compliant landlords. Money from these fines can be invested back into the service to improve enforcement activity."

RMBC website

Images: Google Maps / RMBC

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