Local authority U-turns on licensing after threat of legal action by landlords
Landlord and lettings agent groups have claimed a victory after Hounslow Council is believed to have backtracked on plans for a licensing scheme in the London borough.
Hounslow Council’s cabinet had agreed to proceed with plans for an additional licensing scheme for landlords in July but the Residential Landlords Association threatened the local authority with a judicial review on the basis that the consultation it ran to establish the scheme was flawed.
The RLA said the council failed to provide any information on which the plans for the scheme were being made and didn’t adequately explain how it would work.
The RLA said it has now been contacted by the council’s lawyers to confirm that the decision will not be taken forward to introduce the additional licensing scheme and it will now reconsider the way forward, including carrying out a new consultation.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “We are glad that they have had the courage to admit this and think again.
“Rather than seeking to re-consult on its proposals, the council should consider the reality that they can already access a wealth of information on landlords from council tax returns, tenancy deposit schemes and the electoral roll.
“Instead of tying up good landlords with red tape whilst the criminals continue operating under the radar, the council needs to develop proper enforcement strategies focused on rooting out those who bring the sector into disrepute.
“Licensing does not achieve this.”
Isobel Thomson, chief executive of safeagent, said: “This is a victory for common sense – we are pleased Hounslow Council took on board the issues we raised about the validity of their proposed scheme.
“It is important that councils do not just automatically view licensing as the panacea for all ills in the private rented sector.
“There are other existing options at their disposal which could be used more sensibly and would not involve the cost or the level of administration that licensing does.”
Hounslow Council has been asked for comment.