A new campaign has launched against licensing schemes in the private rented sector, suggesting they could breach the fundamental rights of tenants while imposing utterly impossible responsibilities on agents and landlords.
The launch comes as one city council, Liverpool, wants landlords and agents to keep tenants and their visitors under what appears to be permanent surveillance as part of its proposed licensing scheme.
The new national campaign against selective licensing schemes is to seek legal opinion on the issue of tenants’ legal rights to peaceful enjoyment of their property.
In what could be a highly controversial move – but one that could be copied across the UK – landlords and agents in Liverpool will have to add a clause to their tenancy agreements stipulating that tenants and their visitors must not annoy other people.
“Annoy” could be something as minor as having unruly children or puppies, or an untidy garden, by the council’s own definition.
In addition, agents and landlords would have to report anti-social behaviour to the council promptly, and would also have to keep properties regularly monitored between tenancies to ensure they do not cause a nuisance to neighbours.
The full proposed clause reads:
“Nuisance and Anti-social Behaviour: Not to cause or allow household members or visitors to cause a nuisance or annoyance to the landlord, other tenants or neighbours within the locality. (Anti-social behaviour includes minor problems with dogs, children, untidy gardens and lifestyle cases through to serious noise problems, violent and criminal behaviour, domestic abuse, the supply and use of controlled drugs, and intimidation, harassment or victimisation on the grounds of a persons’ race, sex (gender), sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or belief, pregnancy or maternity status, socio-economic status.)”
Liverpool City Council’s consultation on its proposals closed yesterday and the outcome will have effect on other licensing schemes across the UK.where local authorities want to use anti-social behaviour as the main reason behind wanting to introduce licensing.
Objections to the Liverpool scheme have come from both the National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Association.
In its submission, the RLA says: “Landlords are not directly responsible for the behaviour of their tenants, and attempting to impose a licensing scheme on them to resolve anti-social behaviour will not work.”
The RLA response quotes a House of Commons briefing note which says: “As a general rule, landlords are not responsible for the actions of their tenants as long as they have not authorised the anti-social behaviour.
“Despite having the power to seek a court order for eviction where tenants exhibit anti-social behaviour, private landlords are free to decide whether or not to take action against their tenants.”
A licence in Liverpool would cost £500 per property and last five years. There are some 50,000 private rental properties in the city.
The anit-licensing scheme, which plans to present evidence to the Department for Communities and Local Government this autumn, cites another unnamed council as seeking to ban trade vehicles from private rental properties.
This would mean that if a tenant drives a van to work, the landlord would have to evict them, or be fined for renting the property to them.
The campaign is actively looking for evidence and support from anyone involved in the lettings industry.