Nottingham landlords ‘selling up’ in droves as city council propose new licensing scheme

It has been claimed landlords are “selling up” in large numbers because of a controversial fee introduced by Nottingham City Council. The council launched selective licensing in August 2018 to crack down on bad landlords who leave properties in unsafe conditions and it looks set to establish a renewed scheme soon, prompting concerns over rising rents for cash-stricken tenants.

Plans for a new selective licensing scheme were approved at the city council’s executive board on May 24 this year. The scheme requires all landlords to license any privately rented property they have within a designated area, but a fee must be paid to do so.

It then gives the Labour-run city council the power to make sure rented homes meet certain conditions the landlord is a ‘fit and proper person’ and it has been praised by councilors. The plans are for a brand new scheme and not a renewal of the first scheme introduced in August 2018, which also prompted similar outrage amid concerns it would lead to the increase in rents.

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It comes as the city’s private rented sector has increased to 45,500 properties in 2021, up from 43,000 in 2016. Those who refused to join the scheme faced a fine and potential prosecution.

Colin Goddard, 65, who lives in Wilford, sold up one of his properties in Silverdale in June due to the cost of the scheme. He said the property was inhabited by a “reliable” tenant who he was charging £475 a month, below market, because of this.

However Mr Goddard says he had to sell up due to the costs. He also feared the hundreds he paid for the old scheme would only be valid for a year as this is due to expire before the new one is brought in. He told Nottinghamshire Live: “I sold the property in Silverdale because of the fee and I did not want to upset the tenant.

“But now house prices have risen and I am getting older and I did not want the hassle. I do not want to contribute to something I do not see any benefit to.”

Mr Goddard compared the city scheme to a similar protective scheme in Rushcliffe for HMOs. He still owns a property in West Bridgford for which Rushcliffe Borough Council charges “£500 to £600” a year for assurances. He claims council inspectors had visited this property, but not once had city council inspectors visited the Silverdale property under the old scheme.

Under the previous scheme just 666 improvements were made to a total of 446 properties. City councilors have overwhelmingly spoke out in support of the scheme however.

It is anticipated that the cost of the license would be £820 for five years with a proposed fee of £630 for accredited landlords, the council says. The original fee increased to £670 (accredited) and £890 (non-accredited) in March 2020.

There are also recommendations in the new proposals to introduce a higher fee for less compliant landlords of £1,110, as well as a proposed block license for certain blocks of flats. These fees are £1,840 standard fee, £1,125 accredited fee and a £2,295 less compliant fee.

Giles Inman, business development manager at East Midlands Property Owners Group (EMPO) which represents 700 landlords, echoed the concerns. He added: “The big elephant in the room is the cost of living crisis. From a professional landlord perspective is it really a sensible conversation to be having while people are struggling?

“The council has admitted very little has been achieved through the [old] scheme. Anti-social behavior is still a big problem in the city and the number of properties that have had hazards removed is such a small percentage.

“Is there a better way to do this? We know rents in Nottingham are above national average.

“If costs go up in businesses they pass them on to customers. We are not different as landlords, and if our costs go up then we will pass it on to tenants.

“More landlords are selling up and we have lots of tenants worried about if their rents will go up. When we speak to landlords they are citing licensing as one of the reasons for selling up every time.

“They need to postpone it until economic conditions stabilize.”

It is understood the council would not be allowed to make any surplus on the scheme and all revenue from the license fees would only be used to cover the cost of administering the scheme. Councilor Toby Neal, the new portfolio holder for housing and human resources, said: “People renting privately have a right to expect a decent standard of accommodation.

“The impact of poor quality and badly managed accommodation can be very negative on the tenants. The local neighborhood also suffers because of poorly managed properties and the crime and anti-social behavior that can follow.

“Selective Licensing works to tackle poor housing conditions and poor management and to drive up standards in the private rented sector. The first Scheme has helped improve property conditions, management standards and helped to make homes safer through the removal of dangerous hazards such as electrical and gas safety, damp and mould, as well as slip, trip and fall hazards.

“We believe that there is more work needed to support landlords to comply with their responsibilities and it is important that standards are maintained and continue to improve where needed.”

And David Mellen, the leader of the council and Dales ward councilor, added: “This scheme has been very effective in the ward that I represent. Sometimes I get to visit those houses.

“Some of them are very good but others are less so. And being able to have some kind of encouragement for landlords to bring private rented households up to a decent standard and give tenants’ a decent place to live is really important.”

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