Council labelled irresponsible for pressing ahead with licensing schemes during pandemic

A city council was yesterday still  going ahead with major new licensing schemes – despite the coronavirus crisis.

Newcastle was yesterday still due to launch the additional and selective licensing schemes, necessitating a number of properties to be visited, inspected and measured up, on April 6. Where necessary, contractors will have to be sent in to complete works.

One agent said that the council is being “socially irresponsible” to press ahead at a time when the Government is urging social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. He also said that the scheme itself is causing enormous difficulties, and that the council has given very little time for compliance.

Damiano Rea, of Heaton Property, was told on only March 2 that the portal was even open for licence applications.

His agency has over 100 properties that will need to be licensed. Floorplans and gas safety certificates are among the documents that have to be submitted.

He told the council last week that the process of uploading the various documents would take time, and some would need to be scanned.

He said: “With two of my team self-isolating and imminent school closures which are going to further reduce saff availability, we will find it difficult to dedicate man hours to the administrative, office-based tasks that are required.”

He has raised significant concerns about visiting properties during the coronavirus crisis, highlighting access problems where tenants may be in self-isolation.

Yesterday, the council told him that the schemes were going ahead, and that he needs to “make every effort to submit your applications on time”, although room measures “may need to be guesstimated until you can visit”.

Rea has asked for the licensing schemes to be suspended.

He says that if the council will not postpone the launch, it should reassure landlords that it will not take legal action for non-compliance.

He has told the council that the country is in the middle of a huge crisis and the council has the choice of being part of the problem or part of the solution.

He has also written to the leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes, saying that many small businesses “including Heaton Property are going to be fighting for their very existence” during the crisis.

He goes on: “Yet, for some incomprehensible reason, Newcastle Council are pressing ahead with the introduction of their selective and additional licensing schemes.

“The whole process has been badly managed and, even if there was no pandemic, I would be concerned with how the introduction of the scheme has been executed.”

He said that some landlords who are aware of the new licensing regulations are also seeking the help of letting agents.

“As an example, I’ve had three appraisals this week in properties where licences will be required to ensure they are compliant.

“Entering tenanted properties (to ensure that requirements, like floorplans with room sizes are provided with an application) when we are increasingly being encouraged to distance ourselves from others, can’t be in the interest of my team, our landlords, the tenants or contractors.”

EYE has approached Newcastle City Council for comment but despite our attempts have had no response.

Below, how one Newcastle landlord notified a tenant about a property inspection in the midst of the coronavirus crisis

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  1. Will2

    GREED GREED. GREED. And reckless. However it does demonstrate the attitude local authorities have and why many are not fit to make such important decisions. 

  2. Richard Tacagni

    Last week, my housing consultancy (London Property Licensing), together with safeagent, called for a six month delay to all new licensing schemes in light of the coronavirus crisis. It is vital that this happens. This is not business as usual and life has dramatically changed for everyone. The risk of rapid community spread is now and in my opinion, agents should not be inspecting properties to prepare licence applications at this time – urgent / essential visits only where it is safe and appropriate to do so. Updated guidance from MHCLG is needed to clarify this issue.


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