Landlords face licensing fee

Hastings Borough Council has approved selective licensing for private landlords despite opposition from landlords, and two days before new directives from the government come into force.

The decision to approve a Selective Licensing Scheme (SLS) was made at Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) Cabinet meeting on Monday (March 30).

The SLS will cover all privately rented homes in seven of the towns wards: Braybrooke, Castle, Central St Leonards, Gensing, Old Hastings, Ore and Tressell. All private landlords who rent properties in these areas will now be required to apply to HBC for a license or face being fined. Landlords who register within the first six months will be given an ‘early bird’ discount, down from the proposed £415 to £150 per rented property if they belong to an accredited scheme.

At the meeting HBC Leader Cllr Jeremy Birch said: “Hastings has a large and expanding private rented sector that is almost double the national average, and covers nearly a third of all homes, nearly 12,000 households in the town.

“We agreed that seven wards should be designated for selective licensing.”

Cllr Birch said evidence had shown that living conditions and management in the private sector are “often well below standard” and that there is “persistent and significant anti-social behaviour from some households within the private sector”, and claims the scheme will help tackle “rogue, rotten landlords”.

However, a spokesman from the National Landlord Association (NLA) said its disappointed that the council chose to push the scheme forward at a time when new legislation is due to take effect on April 1, which would mean any council wanting to implement a licensing scheme for more than 20 percent of their geographical area would have to seek approval from the Secretary of State. adding: “This would have required the council to obtain consent from the Housing Minister. The change in the law is designed to limit the use of large scale licensing schemes and to test the quality of evidence where larger schemes are proposed.”

Amber Rudd MP said she’s always been in favour of licensing but says it’s very disappointing that Hastings Borough Council have not worked with landlords to find a scheme that is mutually beneficial, adding: “This what landlords have been asking for all along. I’m disappointed that landlords have had this scheme imposed on them without any discussion whatsoever with the council.

“And by taking this decision on March 30, with new guidelines coming into force on April 1, Hastings Borough Council have literally snuck under the wire.”