Homesure Property

Landlord Licensing in Liverpool – Consultation Forum 4th June 2014

*** Please excuse any spelling mistakes, formatting errors, profanities; I’m doing this from my iPhone! ***

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VERY INTERESTING COMMENT posted below. This chap called me and is very passionate about this cause.

I’ve had a lot of people asking me about this, so I thought I’d do a ‘Live Blog’ while I’m here, to try and give you all the information I know as soon as possible.

I’ve invited my good friend and respected solicitor, Mark Pollard of Vantage Law, to come with me so he can provide some input to me afterward.

Tom Reynolds of NLA has already been round to hand out these letters:

1:30pm
And we’re off. These are the hosts:

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It’s promising that the consultants say that they have worked on several projects that have not proceeded.

Tom Reynolds again mentioned as a representative for Landlords/Agents. Need to get behind him as a single, uniformed voice.

“Our report does NOT provide a recommendation; the local authority will be left to make a decision based upon our findings.”

Amusing that we, the audience, have been warned to be “coherent and reserved”… It seems that previous meetings were very heated…

He’s a Landlord himself!

Fact:
206,000 homes, of which 50,000 are private rented sector (PRS).

1:45pm

“Our proposal is based on low demand.”

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Crucial bit: ‘High rates of ASB complaints in areas with most PRS’.

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What is Selective Licensing?

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‘Fit and proper person’ – this is the same with HMO Landlords already.

They want “good management practices”. Surely then they need to support professional agents rather than potentially capitulating their businesses by scaring Landlords away (for fear of being caught once using an agent).

“We will know who all of the Landlords are.” Priceless Because no-one drives a car without a licence; evades tax; and escapes prison.

Consultation ends on 16th June 2014.

Next steps:

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I would like to know who would be implementing and servicing this enforcement. I wonder because, this very week I have had to tell the HMO licensing department what is and isn’t licensed – and even had to send them copies of the HMO licences because they couldn’t find them!
Or perhaps this scheme is being brought in to provide that department with resources because they are grossly under-staffed? (I have has 2 emails from HMO Enforcement Officers email me to tell me they are slow at the moment because they are so short-staffed).

2:00pm
Back to the Consultation chap (I’m rubbish with names – sorry – but you can see him on the photo 🙂 )

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‘Show the property is safe/managed responsibly.’
Properties already have to be ‘safe’ under the HHSRS as far as I am aware.
As for ‘managed responsibly’; if a tenant is causing ASB I will act responsibly by contacting the police rather than trying to manage them myself. After all, we don’t want vigilante landlords now do we? If so, I’ll watch the Batman trilogy at the weekend and start practising my deep voice.

As for doing credit checks and referencing tenants ‘properly’, we deal a lot with a council department whom we provide properties for. Ironically, we’ve been told recently that we’re overstepping the mark by asking too many questions when taking on a new tenancy. So, one council department is saying we’re asking too many questions and the other is saying we’re not asking enough. Hmmm.

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Questions from the floor (to be asked in bulk and then responded to):

Questions 1 and 2: Landlords are saying that there isn’t low demand and that, if there is, it’s pockets and localised.
“Sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Question 3: Another Landlord (Viv) has just asked my question for me regarding HMO licensing, I.e. Why start enforcing ALL landlords when they haven’t licensed all of the HMO landlords? GOOD QUESTION!! Finish the first job you’ve finished. “Why not double council tax after 3 months of a property being empty to force Landlords to improve their properties?” Spontaneous round of applause for that lady! (Landlord with over 50 HMO flats I think).

Response time:

Questions 1 and 2 (demand):
“We may only bring it in in certain areas.”
Landlord: “Isn’t that the point; ‘Selective Licensing’?”
Sorry, I don’t really know what the answer was. Just seemed to defend their reasons for investing (heavily!) in a consultation and then repeating that this is an ‘if’.

Question 3: same as above. “Just one of a range of measures to tackle ASB.”
One of the hosts said they’d already doubled the council tax after 3 months of a property being empty. Quickly retracted the statement after several (contradictory) shouts from the floor. As far as I am aware, my blog clears this up.

Other authorities:
Hosts says they have been to numerous DCLG meetings and this isn’t an isolated idea. Have been up and down the country speaking to other authorities.
Responding to the lack of HMO licensing, they’ve now licensed over 850 HMOs. “We now don’t think there are over 1,200 HMO properties, more like about 100.” I am gobsmacked. If they can’t find boulders in a haystack, how can they find needles?

They say that they cannot use the licence fee to chase other landlords, only compliance once found.
So, if rogues get under the radar, they can stay there. If you volunteer, you’re screwed.

Question from floor:
Clive (student landlord): how don’t you know how many landlords there are? Look at the council tax records. You’ve mismanaged the mandatory HMO licensing scheme; are we just paying for the council to provide jobs?

Paul: where have you got your figures from? Where are you comparing us with? Who is going to be checking? Are they fit and proper people? What are you going to do for us?

My question: reiterating Clive’s point, as well as Paul’s.
Council Tax is actually 50% after 2 years.
HMO licensing a mess. Are they fit and proper person? How can they manage 50,000 properties when they can’t manage 850 HMOs?
Have already penalised landlords by reducing HB instantly.
I work with a council department due to high demand for the PRS.
Accidental landlords cause a lot of problems and these proposals will not effect them.

Neil: Property Manager of 700 properties. Has been complaining to the council for 5/6 years. Changes in LHA are to blame NOT landlords.

Responses:

Re: they already know who they are.
“We don’t.” Scream of “Why?!” from the floor. Due to Data Protection – cannot get information from the register. Need a better legal team!

Re: where have the figures come from?
Listed some figures comparing with other northern cities (Ha. “Better run cities” a chap mumbles…)

Re: council tax.
Didn’t know. I spoke up and corrected them. Next!

Re: LHA
“It’s not strictly down to us, it’s Central Government too.”
Hmmmm.

Re: HMO licensing
“We admit that there have been failings in the implementation of this scheme.”
ENOUGH SAID!

Question from the floor:

Tom Reynolds from NLA:
“Landlords have to make a profit in order for the licence fee to be tax deductible.”
Good point.
“Disappointed that the council thinks that the whole of the city is in a poor state; that’s a blight.”
“Landlords are being forced to deal with housing benefit tenants. Why? Because of the lack of jobs in the city.”
“Landlords need help NOT more legislation.”
Stating that the council is driving investors (I.e. Money) away from the city which is causing the lack of commerce.
NLA believes in increasing standards in the PRS. They encourage the council to use the powers they already have rather than a blanket policy which penalises the good, and majority, of Landlords.

Willing to implement an Accreditation at no cost to the council like they did in Cumbria. NLA believe in “educate, don’t regulate”.

Question from the floor:
“If it is tax deductible, why is it charged upfront?”
Don’t understand the question but we’ll wait to hear the answer.

Chap used to work FOR the council and has been a landlord for 18 years.
“How far do we have to go?”

Mike (landlord):
“Why not implement a per landlord licence rather than per property?”

Steve (letting agent):
“30% of lenders won’t lend on properties within a selective licensing area.” Interesting!

Rep from consultants is telling us to get the names of the lenders to them for them to investigate.

I wonder how many of the council workers on this panel are landlords themselves?

Responses:

Re: licensing per unit
Discount for landlords with larger portfolios (due to the reduction in admin).

Question from the floor:
Mark Pollard: skeptical of licensing. Government has implemented other schemes in other areas which have failed.
Won’t figures (for low demand) be outdated when it comes to implementing the scheme, due to house price changes?
Will the rogues be caught? In the Ministry of Justice, they haven’t been caught.
Why does a landlord have to keep their garden in good order, when an owner/occupier doesn’t?
Regards to Council Tax, you do ask the question whether the house is rented or not. All they need to do is insert a clause into the council tax rules to state that the person’s details can be used when necessary.

Simon (landlord and agent):
“How much money has the council set aside for chasing rogue landlords?” If they can’t use licence money, the money must be coming from other departments, therefore, other council services will suffer.

Richard (landlord):
Doesn’t believe the figures being relied upon are accurate.
If they already know that there are x amount of empty homes, why don’t they enforce upon them first?
How many questionnaires were sent out by the consultation service?
Confirmed there are 5,000 landlords in Liverpool. How can they say that, consulting with approximately 5% of the landlords, is fair?
They thought there were 1,250 HMOs, now they about 950. They have failed to deal with the difficult ones, now they’re going after the low-hanging fruit.

Question from John (Management Consultant):
Is this a genuine process?
The literature states ‘Why we are introducing selective licensing?’ Is this a waste of our time?

Responses:
Re: figures on low demand
All figures have been referenced and sourced. They use the Hometrack survey figures.

Re: Council Tax
They will take this on board and check it with their legal team.

Re: prior determination
Correct, it does say that. Clerical error – not intentional.

Conclusion:
Seem to have “taken a lot on board”. Didn’t seem to know much and I’m not sure exactly what even qualifies them to be undertaking such a monumental, expensive, and complicated task such as this consultation.
If I was going to be facing several hundred angry landlords who we’re going to try to dissuade me from doing this, I’d have swotted up pretty heavily on my figures! Is this endemic of the whole consultation; they aren’t fully clued up?

Last question from me: “Won’t landlords avoid using agents to fly under the radar?”
Didn’t understand my question. A lot of shouts from the floor.
Tried to emphasise that it’s about property management NOT the condition of the property.

Mark (landlord): re stratified survey.
They don’t work, and shouldn’t be relied upon for something of this stature.
To use figures from a financial crisis is not a valid argument for implementing a scheme. He works in South Liverpool and doesn’t have any problems with low demand.
This is the same as gun control; the only people with guns are the criminals, I.e. The rogues will have the power.

From the floor:
“Will the report be made publicly available before a decision is made?”
They think so. Will confirm to us. Nice of them to clarify this beforehand…

4:00pm
Questions only from now as time’s up.

Alan (landlord):
Will a landlord be obligated to evict tenants who cause ASB?

Sue (landlord):
Feels sorry for the panel. “How are you possibly going to handle this?”
Investors will pull investment out of the city.
Agreed with me that landlords will avoid agents because we now “have to do everything bar taking blood.” NICE POINT!

Simon: any answer to my question on where the money will come from?
Still not answered!!

*** My phone may die – if this ends abruptly, forgive me! ***

Lastly, how to get involved:

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