Government refuse permission for selective licensing scheme in Stoke on Trent

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019 -

London Property Licensing has learnt that an application to approve a selective licensing scheme in Stoke on Trent has recently been refused by the Secretary of State.

The council were seeking to introduce a selective licensing scheme covering about 3,000 properties in 154 streets across 14 separate areas.

According to the council’s website, a selective licensing consultation was conducted from 17 January 2018 to 30 April 2018, with a follow-up consultation report published in late August 2018.

In December 2018, the council’s Cabinet approved plans to submit an application to government seeking permission for a selective licensing scheme covering: City centre, Shelton South, Longport, Hill Street and Liverpool Road area, Shelton New Road, Burslem town, Regent Road, Hanley South, North Road area, Sun/Wellesley Street area, Furnival Street area, Wellington Street area, Waterloo Road, Moorcroft, Middleport and Northwood West.

Since 2015, government approval has been required for all selective licensing schemes covering over 20% of the council’s geographical area, or 20% of private rented homes.

At that time, Councillor Randy Conteh, the city council’s cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said:

Poor housing conditions and management practices in the private sector have had a detrimental effect on the housing market in certain areas of the city.

Some poor condition properties – leading to low demand and anti-social behaviour – result in unsettled communities, and along with other social and economic problems this can seriously undermine any efforts to build a thriving and prosperous city. Poor housing conditions can also affect people’s health, with conditions such as excess cold, damp and mould impacting on physical health and mental wellbeing throughout life.

In the past 18 months we have received more than 325 reports from vulnerable residents about harassment and illegal evictions.

This is why we want to introduce selective licensing in the areas that have high levels of private rented accommodation and experience poor property conditions and management practices as well as other issues – and why we launched a consultation about it earlier this year.

We have listened to people’s views and we made a number of changes based on feedback we received. These included changes to the fees and payment arrangements, removing some of the selective licensing conditions, and amending the ‘fit and proper person’ criteria.

The next step is to seek permission from the secretary of state to go ahead with the proposals.

According to the North Staffordshire Landlords’ Association (NSLA), the council’s application for scheme approval was submitted to the Secretary of State in March 2019. The NSLA contacted the government to express concern about the licensing proposal and reinforce objections raised through the consultation process.

On 2 August 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government advised that the council’s selective licence application had been refused. Shortly afterwards, the council acknowledged the decision and indicated they were now considering their options.

Whilst the precise reasons for refusal are unknown, it is understood the government concluded the statutory criteria in section 80(9) of the Housing Act 2004 had not been met. This clause relates to the consultation arrangements. There is no right of appeal although the council could reapply in the future.

Commenting on the government’s decision, Ms Sara Hammerton, a local landlord, said:

I was surprised when I heard about this, but I think the ministry has made the right decision.

I understand that the council is now considering its options, but I really hope they don’t waste even more taxpayers’ money appealing against this decision.

What we’ve been saying all along is that the council should be concentrating on enforcement of the existing rules. Selective licensing only punishes the good landlords while doing nothing about the rogue ones.

The refusal of Stoke on Trent’s selective licensing scheme is likely to concern other councils embarking on the same approval process. It demonstrates the government’s scheme approval process is not automatic. The London Boroughs of Waltham Forest and Lewisham have both recently consulted on plans for large selective licensing schemes and will need government approval before the schemes can be implemented.

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