Another of Labour’s flagship policies for Croydon, the landlord licensing scheme which was a key part of the manifesto when they won control of the council last year, could be facing a crisis as a group of local businesses are to challenge the decision in the High Court.
The landlords are challenging the manner in which the council conducted its consultation – which Croydon was forced to extend by 10 weeks after an earlier concern that the law had not been complied with properly.
Earlier this year, Alison Butler, the council’s deputy leader, and Jo Negrini, the executive director in charge of planning, had assured a meeting of the scrutiny committee that they had taken all necessary steps so that the council would avoid being dragged through the courts over this scheme, which was due to be implemented from October 1, with landlords expected to pay £750 for a five-year licence, discounted to a “bargain” £350 for those who registered early.
Croydon Labour has suggested that the licence fees are necessary to pay towards the administration of the scheme.
Today, Butler was forced to issue a terse statement which reads: “We are confident that our landlord licensing scheme is robust, lawful and will raise housing standards across the borough, and we’ll continue preparing to launch this scheme from October 1.”
Controversially, Butler and the Labour-run council had pushed through the measure in mid-March, just a fortnight before the Conservative-led Government passed measures intended to prevent new licence schemes from being introduced.
The measure – what the Tories like to call “the Tenant Tax” – has been opposed by the council’s Conservative opposition group, which includes among its councillors several … private landlords.
The 2004 Housing Act provided for the licensing of private landlords by local authorities, a measure intended to address the impact of poor quality private landlords and reduce levels of anti-social behaviour. Landlords who fail to get licensed face fines of up to £20,000, while breaches of a licence can incur penalties of up to £5,000.
Landlords resent the regulation, since they regard it as an additional expense (which will doubtless be passed on to their tenants in increased rents), and because it lumps the “good” landlords together with the bad and irresponsible ones. The licensing scheme has “been looming around like a vegetarian’s fart”, according to one blogging landlord.
“As with most of these hare-brained schemes introduced to benefit the ‘greater good’ it comes attached with a financial cost that landlords are forced to grin and bear. In other words, the ‘bend over, this won’t hurt a bit’ treatment is in full effect,” the anonymous blogger said, colourfully.
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