Council votes to shelve controversial licensing scheme for Boston

Landlord's meeting at the Assembly Rooms. EMN-140704-105944001
Landlord's meeting at the Assembly Rooms. EMN-140704-105944001

Plans which would have seen private landlords pay to license homes have been shelved while a new scheme to takle rogue landlords takes place.

The Boston Borough Council corporate and community scrutiny committee voted in favour of putting the controversial plans on hold and making no recommendations on the licencing scheme to cabinet on Thursday.

Don Robbie, of the National Landlords Association, and Tim Leffler of James Edwards, spoke at the meeting and the council was told there were a variety of reasons for why a different route should be taken, with recent changes including a Government tenant redress scheme offering clearer routes to complain, a draft tenants’ charter, planned immigration checks, a lack of plans to introduce nationwide licensing and a recent Government statement saying it ‘doesn’t support blanket licencing schemes’.

Mr Robbie said: “It would be irresponsible for us not to give you a proposed way forward. The NLA is very serious about landlord standards, catching rogue landlords and improving standards.”

He said the organisation was willing to work with the council to create more ‘education’ around landlords’ rights and responsibilities and suggested other tactics, including a confidential hotline for people to call to report rogue landlords and the ‘reinvigorating’ of a landlord forum.

Mr Leffler suggested taking various points from some of the other options – including building on rogue landlord work within the council, getting landlords to sign up to a charter and using strong legal actions.

The council’s proposed licensing scheme, which could have seen landlords paying more than £500 per property they own, aimed to deal with anti-social behaviour and deal with rogue landlords - however, it faced huge opposition.

In total 371 landlords/letting agents and 106 tenants responded to a consultation. 86 owner occupiers and 48 others (voluntary/public sector) also took part.

The survey showed 89 per cent of landlords and 75 per cent of tenants did not support licensing. That compared to 52 per cent of owner occupiers and 52 per cent of others who did support it.

When it came to anti-social behaviour, 69 per cent of landlords felt there was not an issue in Boston - but only 16 per cent of tenants agreed.

Borough officer Andy Fisher also told councillors that a £109,000 Government grant given to the council to work with the Gangmasters Licencing Association to tackle rogue landlords was going well so far.

The scheme would be ongoing for 15 months and so far more than 50 properties had been inspected and more than 50 statutory notices had been issued.

Councillors voted in favour of asking cabinet to wait for the outcome of this scheme before moving forward.