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27 January 2020
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has rejected an application to keep the citywide Landlord Licensing scheme going for another five years - despite it being backed by Merseyside Police, Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and the majority of residents who responded to the consultation. The scheme stipulated ‘licensed landlords’ properties must meet fire, electric and gas safety standards and be in a good state’ and would receive a license as proof; if properties were found to breach this scheme council were able to reprimand ‘’rogue landlords’’. The scheme has been widely praised for driving up standards of rented housing - and was seen as a model that could be rolled out in other areas.
The council is reportedly shocked by the Governments decision to reject its application to continue this scheme. The local authority believes that this decision ‘severely hamper attempts to drive up standards in the private rental sector and keep vulnerable tenants safe – particularly in relation to fire safety in rented properties. However, the Government claimed that the scheme did not demonstrate ‘robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city’. With one Landlord stating that the scheme was ‘the right idea but badly thought out and implemented’.
However, since the scheme inception in 2015, ‘70% of inspected properties in Liverpool have been found to be in breach of their licence condition’, uncovering serious hazards such as fire, electrical safety and excess cold. Meaning that the local authority ‘has carried out over 37,000 compliance actions, issued more than 2,500 legal and fixed penalty notices and prosecuted almost 250 landlords. The impact has meant that Liverpool alone has been responsible for 389% of the 460% national rise in prosecutions between 2012 and 2018. As a result, of the Government rejecting the extension of the Landlord Licensing Scheme, the local authorities will not be able to carry out inspections and enforcements. At a time when increasing fire safety is of the utmost importance to the Government; it is difficult to understand the Governments motivations behind rejecting a scheme that has proven to make homes safer.