Fears for property licensing
Readers have probably received a rather unclear letter from Fenland District Council about ‘selective licensing’. As a landlord, I have a few concerns.
The summary of the letter is that FDC are proposing to charge landlords £575 per property for a five-year licence as part of its plan to ensure we are ‘fit and proper persons’ to be renting out properties.
‘Selective Licensing’ is only taking place in Wisbech town, not the villages, nor March, Chatteris or Whittlesey. Could we call it ‘discriminatory licensing’? Why aren’t other areas being licensed?
I am a landlord in Wisbech and, as my tenants have been with me from 2-10 years, presumably a good one. I let to families and have never taken part in multi-lets because I have respect for my tenants and also the neighbours of my properties. I register the tenant’s deposit, pay to have an annual gas safety check carried out on each appliance in the property, am directly contactable and carry out repairs urgently, keep the tenant’s home in good order internally and externally, provide tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate when they move in, have the appropriate buy-to-let type of mortgage (some landlords have cheaper residential mortgages and pretend they live in the rented property themselves, keeping certain bills in their names for tax avoidance).
I install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, pay tax on my income and follow the rules.
About two years ago FDC changed their rules about charging Council Tax on empty properties. Before then, there was no Council Tax chargeable on an empty property between lets. However, the council decided to start charging landlords 100% Council Tax on empty properties between lets – 100% when no-one is living there or using any council services!
I live and pay Council Tax in Wisbech already, so am paying two lots of Council Tax at times while not using double the council’s services. Where did this extra revenue go?
If the council’s nemesis, the ‘Rogue Landlord’, is already flying under the council’s and other governing bodies’ radars – by flouting the rules such as overcrowding their property; not having an HMO licence for multi-lets; not carrying out repairs; not having appropriate-sized bins for the many tenants they are putting in their houses; causing harassment and nuisance to neighbours; and probably not carrying out any of the procedures which I do as a matter of course – does the council really think they are going to pay this licence fee? Why should the good landlords pay for the rogues? I welcome readers’ views.
To even consider licensing flats, houses and the houses of multiple occupation (HMO’s) by examination and then issue a licence is a retrograde step.
This will have a profoundly bad influence on our established way of life.
Houses, flats and bungalows have one thing in common – they have been built to accommodate a normal family. They all fit in with the infrastructure, the supply of energy and water, waste water removal and road size.
None have been built for conversion into allowing many more people in the same premises. This does not mean just for sleeping, it must also include domestic use, social and food preparation areas.
Every HMO will need extra toilet use, gas and electric power consumption will be put under stress. This alone can cause power lines to catch fire and water pipes to collapse. Already many miles of electricity and gas supply sources have been, or are being, updated along with replacement disruption.
Sewage blockages have been noted with increased frequency. Car parking spaces will be regarded as a premium to be guarded for.
Our English society is not fit or designed for HMO’s. The road systems, drainage, sewage and power supply have been laid down over ages – designed for a normal household with normal human living accommodation. There will be a chance of more fires from candles instead of normal lights being switched on. Houses designed for six people, now sleeping up to 12 or more.
That Fenland Council should even consider accepting HMO’s is outrageous in its conception.
To even contemplate issuing licences to landlords is fraught with difficult endeavours. How will it be enforced? And by whom?
It is incomprehensible that FDC are condoning HMO’s. The health of families and those crowded into small accommodation must come first and FDC should reconsider issuing licences for these rented properties. I believe they should pursue with vigour the very opposite – to get rid of these places.
Cambs County Councillor,
Wisbech Town Councillor.