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Action to tackle irresponsible landlords has half-succeeded at Coventry council after one of two schemes was passed by councillors.

A city-wide ‘additional licensing’ scheme was approved at full council on Tuesday, January 14, but ward-specific ‘selective licensing’ came to a halt after it was voted down to allow for further investigations.

The new additional licensing policy will focus on houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

The scheme is likely to impact a number of student homes, which the council hopes to reduce through the introduction of more purpose-built student blocks.

Under additional licensing, a landlord who has been operating an unlicensed HMO could pay £1,250 for a one-year licence; £1,055 could be charged for a one-year licence if they are not listed as part of the council’s ‘proactive enforcement regime’; £705 for a two-year licence; £640 for a five-year licence; and £545 for a renewal.

Selective licensing would have been in certain wards, although councillors voted it down after citing an upcoming selective licensing review from the government and ‘out-of-date’ data from a 2011 census which was used to determine the areas the new scheme would fall into.

In consultation, landlords also claimed it added ‘unnecessary financial burden’ and could lead to increased costs being passed onto tenants.

Both schemes were planned to hold landlords to account and help set and maintain minimum standards across the city.

Combined the schemes would have introduced fees potentially worth thousands of pounds on landlords.

Around a dozen councillors were forced to leave the meeting and not take part in the vote as they are landlords themselves.

Cabinet member responsible Cllr Tariq Khan said the selective licensing scheme will be revisited once the government’s review has been published, while his deputy Cllr David Welsh welcomed the new additional licensing.

Cllr Welsh said: “This is probably one of the biggest steps this council has taken to improve the quality of housing in many years.

“Members will be aware what HMOs have done to the quality of housing across the city and the issues they have created.

“I look forward to working with the good landlords we have in the city and I’m very aware there’s many who do take responsibility for the properties they own and manage them well.

“But this scheme will tackle those who fail to do this, people who seek to invest in the city in terms of owning a property but don’t want to be responsible for the state of the properties and the behaviour of the tenants within.

“This scheme will give the council power to put conditions on the licence in terms of the quality of accommodation and others that we have not been able to do until now. That will make a big difference.”

Additional licensing requires all owners of HMOs that are occupied by three or four tenants and all converted self-contained flats that are wholly tenanted to apply to the council for a HMO licence.

Selective licensing would have required owners of rented properties in designated areas to apply and pay for a property licence and pass a ‘fit and proper person’ test.

Additional licensing will come into force on May 4 for a period of five years.

By Tom Davis

Source: Coventry Telegraph

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