Council in third attempt to crack down on rogue landlords and poor housing standards in Luton
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Luton council will consider how to do “a blitz” around houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) if landlords fail to register for a planned licensing scheme in the town, a meeting heard.
A third attempt is being made by the borough council to introduce separate selective and additional licensing schemes in the town to tackle rogue landlords and improve private rented accommodation standards.
Landlords lodged a legal challenge last time over the complex process, which is estimated to cost between £30,000 and £50,000.
Service director housing Colin Moone told an overview and scrutiny board meeting the previous additional licensing scheme ended in 2018.
“Since then, the council could only licence any HMOs as required by the Housing Act 2004, which is those with five or more people,” he explained.
“A building research report estimated there are 4,500 HMOs in the town, with more than 3,800 falling outside of the mandatory licensing scheme.
“Issues commonly encountered are overcrowding and disrepair. A consultation was held from December to March.”
Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain wondered whether LBC is sure everything is correct this time.
Mr Moone replied: “I’m satisfied we’ve got everything right. It’s likely we’ll get another legal challenge. There are landlords vehemently against licensing who believe we’ve got powers currently and don’t need this scheme.
“This is the third attempt in the last three years. A core set of landlords definitely aren’t supportive.”
He suggested it could be operational by the end of July or beginning of August if all goes to plan.
Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman wondered how many extra enforcement officers would be needed and if the income would be sufficient to employ more staff.
Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw said: “Any money raised has to be spent on the scheme. If this provided £150,000 that possibly pays for three extra officers.
Asked whether the fees should be higher, housing portfolio holder councillor Shaw warned: “We don’t want to punish the good landlords in the town. Putting the fees at the planned rate allows them to justify putting it on the rent. It’s £1.80 a week.
“The bad ones will be caught up in the system later, and face an unlimited fine and whatever fees we apply for not initially registering.”
Mr Moone added: “It was £488 last year and we’re keeping it the same. That represents £8 a month across the five years. We don’t want to put more pressure on private tenants.”
Labour South councillor David Agbley mentioned enforcement in his ward to enable residents “to have quality of life”.
Mr Moone assured him there are sufficient resources, saying: “If we have to do a blitz one day or one evening around HMOs, we’ll consider how. If not enough landlords register, we’ll need to decide how we go about getting those HMOs.
“The evidence is the many HMOs in the private sector, that standards are poor and there’s anti-social behaviour and flytipping. We want to address that.”
The board agreed to recommend both schemes to the executive to approve and authorise their implementation. Additional licensing is townwide, while selective starts in South ward.