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Council may push through licensing before deadline

Croydon council looks set to push through a controversial borough-wide licensing scheme ahead of a government deadline of April 1, after which it would require ministerial consent. The government says blanket schemes such as the one proposed by Croydon – where every private landlord will have to pay for a licence for each rental property owned – are unreasonable because they hit good landlords without necessarily controlling bad ones, with the cost of the licenses effectively passed to the tenants through likely higher rents.

Brandon Lewis, housing minister, has written to councils to express his concern and to say that from April 1 any blanket licensing scheme will require specific ministerial approval.

However, Croydon council officers are recommending to their councillors – who meet today – that the scheme should go ahead.

Croydon’s proposals are amongst the most expensive of any of the licensing schemes across the country, with landlords told they will have to pay £750 every five years for each property they let, cut to £350 if they apply within the first three months of the scheme.

Those who fail to sign up could, in theory, face prosecution and a £20,000 fine and the council could even take over management of the property. There are some 30,000 privately rented properties in the borough.

Here is the text of the press release from the Department of Communities and Local Government, revealing details of the letter which the minister has sent to all councils:

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis pledged to end the “tenants’ tax” that pushes up rents and imposes unnecessary red tape on decent landlords.

The minister published new rules that will enable councils to licence landlords in neighbourhoods blighted by poor quality accommodation, deprivation and high levels of crime.

But he said he wants councils to work more closely with government on larger licensing schemes to ensure that they don’t unfairly hit good landlords offering a fair service.

New proposals mean councils would have more freedom to introduce licensing in specific neighbourhoods within their boundaries – helping to ensure only rogue operators, who make up a small minority of landlords, are affected.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: The vast majority of private landlords offer a decent service – so I’m determined we end the ‘tenants tax’ caused by draconian measures that do nothing to tackle rogue operators and only serve to push up rents. I want councils to take targeted action and focus their efforts on tackling that small number of landlords who make their tenants’ lives a misery – and help create a bigger, better private rented sector as a result.

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