Landlords who own property in certain parts of Rotherham are to be the subject of a new licensing scheme in an effort to drive up the standards of rented accommodation.
Members of the Council’s Cabinet have agreed to designate Rotherham Central, Dinnington and Maltby South East as Selective Licensing areas under the 2004 Housing Act.
Within identified boundaries in these areas, all privately-rented properties will have to be licensed for a five year period at an estimated maximum cost of £625, with reductions for accredited landlords and single payments.
The aim of the scheme is to bring about long-term improvements in areas suffering from low housing demand where housing and neighbourhood standards are not acceptable and where other measures to deal with these problems have been successful. The measures aim to reduce tenancy turnover, reduce levels of empty properties and help reduce anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Maggie Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods for the Council, said her Cabinet colleagues had weighed-up the benefits of a mandatory scheme versus the alternative of a landlord-led voluntary scheme.
She added: “We needed to ensure that any licensing scheme that is introduced gives us the best chance of bringing about long-term improvements to the private rented housing stock in the areas concerned.
“This is not only for the benefit of tenants but also residents in neighbouring properties and the landlords themselves.
“Because more people are renting privately, making sure that standards in the sector are as high as possible is a really serious issue for the borough. That is why I am pleased to see that so many people have taken the opportunity to comment on our proposals.
“There are some great landlords in Rotherham, and we need to make sure that by working closely with them we get all landlords to match the standards of the best. We also need to remember the interests of home owners who live close to rented properties and make sure that they too, have a decent quality of life.
“It is obviously a big decision but Cabinet has taken on board the views revealed in the consultation and as a result has agreed to a mandatory scheme, which would bring with it greater powers of enforcement and a legal requirement that all landlords must register.”
The ten-week consultation, which was carried out from January to March resulting in over 1600 questionnaires being returned as well as numerous letters, calls and a petition, revealed there was broad support for Selective Licensing measures in Rotherham.
It showed that the majority of people – over 60 per cent – felt that private landlords need to take more responsibility for their properties and the area in which they have invested. However, there were also arguments that the same results can be achieved through voluntary measures.
For example, one group of landlords presented alternatives to the Council which they believe would remove the need for mandatory licensing. Whilst the Council gave careful consideration to that option, it was considered that a mandatory scheme is the only way that a high degree of certainty can be achieved that all landlords will be involved.
As well as a dedicated consultation website and on-line questionnaire, a written version together with a summary of the proposals was sent to every postal address – a total of 15,597 – in the proposed designation areas.
Landlords, national associations, and local tenant and resident associations were also contacted and drop-in sessions were organised to ensure the proposals were conveyed to the general public.
Before the scheme can actually be implemented there will be a three-month public statutory notification period during which the Council will communicate its decision to respondents and the public.