Birmingham landlords facing new £700 licence fee in rogue crackdown

Property landlords in Birmingham may soon be paying £700 for a licence to show they are providing adequate accommodation, after the Government gave the thumbs up for a new scheme.

The Selective Licensing Scheme will cover 25 wards and 50,000 properties.

Up to 130 staff will target wards where the private rented sector is above 20 per cent of properties and there are high levels of deprivation and or crime.

The five-year scheme will start next June and will be the largest of its type according to the city council. Landlords will have to pay £700 for a licence and face criminal sanctions if they breach conditions or fail to get one.

Birmingham Council approved the plans in March this year at a full council meeting, but it was delayed due to the size of the local authority. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities granted permission for the licence under the Housing Act 2004.

The council said it carried out “extensive consultation” before deciding to introduce its scheme. Over 800 responses were received from landlords.

It comes as the second city has emerged as the epicentre of problems with the supported exempt accommodation sector. Birmingham has more than 8,000 ‘exempt’ houses and hostels, which provide accommodation for people deemed hard to house. They include recent prisoners, drug and alcohol addicts, those struggling with mental ill health, young care leavers, refugees and abuse survivors.

Earlier this year, a parliamentary select committee inquiry looked into Birmingham’s exempt accommodation, with more than 100 organisations and individuals providing evidence.

Birmingham's housing chief Councillor Sharon Thompson said: “We want to ensure that private properties in our poorest wards are providing fit and proper accommodation and that landlords are adhering to their legal responsibilities.

“While many already do, the introduction of licence conditions that cover a range issues including waste bins, references and tackling anti-social behaviour will ensure the council is in a position to engage and regulate this sector appropriately.

“The Selective Licensing Scheme will allow the council to work with all landlords to drive up standards across all private rented sector properties and join up with other services, such as the police, to tackle issues such as the high levels of crime that have blighted these wards for too long.

“Improving standards in the longer term will lead to safer and more stable communities, enabling more tenants to fulfil their potential especially children.”

Councillor Marcus Bernasconi, who represents North Edgbaston, which has been a particular concentration on exempt accommodation, said: “I’m delighted that the council is cracking down on the unregulated private sector.

“The sale of alcohol, that requires a licence, and there are conditions attached to that licence. The same should be for landlords, to ensure that the service you’re providing is in the correct way, and that you are meeting your responsibilities to the community.

“My message to landlords is that good landlords have absolutely nothing to fear from a licensing regime, because they will already be meeting the requirements expected of them as responsible landlords.

“It’s about calling time on those who are exploiting that tenants for a quick buck that are ruining all communities. It’s about driving up standards.”

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