Maiden speech on Labour's #TenantTax consultation
15/07/2014 23:38:00......Posted by Mario Creatura
Last night I delivered my maiden speech as a councillor supporting a motion against Labour's proposed Selective Landlord Licensing scheme. You can watch it here or read the transcript below
'This Council is concerned about the impacts on the most vulnerable tenants arising from the introduction of the proposed Landlord Licensing Scheme. The proposed charges would inevitably be passed on to tenants leading to rises in their rental levels. We ask the Council to carefully consider the impact on the most vulnerable and look again at the scheme and the proposed charging structure.'
"Like many of the schemes recently announced by the party opposite, they are meant with the best of intentions. We all want to improve the quality of poor housing stock in Croydon. We all want to tackle rogue landlords and raise the standards of accommodation for our residents. But we on this side want a scheme that is guaranteed to work.
A survey was recently carried out of the 12 local authorities that have already implemented selective licensing regimes to see whether they were having the desired effect of improving housing quality and decreasing antisocial behaviour.
Of those twelve local authorities, between them they managed to prosecute just 216 landlords. All of these landlords, however, were prosecuted not for having poor quality accommodation, but for failing to fill in the correct paperwork to be on the register.
Leeds Council, which introduced its scheme in 2009, has prosecuted just 42 landlords for licence offences and six for hazard offences up to December 2013. By the same time, Durham, Hartlepool, Hyndburn and Bristol councils hadn’t prosecuted any landlords at all.
So despite the idealistic hope that Selective Licensing will lead to more prosecutions of poor landlords, that claim doesn’t seem to stack up when we look at where it’s already enacted around the country.
The head policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health says, and I quote: “Many colleagues working to improve standards in the private rented sector tell us that the licensing approach is fraught with difficulties and carries with it high levels of bureaucratic burden.”
So how much can we expect this burden to cost in Croydon? Blackpool charges £670 for its licences. Newham Council has introduced it at a cost of £500. Croydon estimates it’ll be £200 per year.
There are 20,500 registered landlords in Newham which amounts to just over £10,000,000 being made by their Council. For that amount of cash, you’d expect hundreds of dodgy landlords to be kicked out of Newham. In reality just 18 have been banned. That means 20,482 good landlords have paid £500 each to get rid of just 18 bad eggs. Talk about a poor return on investment!
As someone who rents in Croydon, I know the strain that tenants are under to pay their bills. My friends and neighbours struggle and work every day to be able to live in Croydon. I want what’s best for them, and frankly I also want what’s best for me! Despite this, I understand that private sector landlords are not charities. 30,000 largely good landlords in Croydon will be hit with this increased and demonstrably weak licensing scheme and they will of course pass the cost onto tenants making Croydon Council anything upwards of £6 MILLION profit.
That’s wrong. I don’t want to pay an extra £670 like they do in Blackpool or £500 like those in Newham. It’s not something I signed up for as a tenant, it will be forced upon me. It’s a tax, a Tenant Tax, pure and simple.
As I said at the start Madam Mayor, Labour’s Tenant Tax is of course meant with the best of intentions - who can blame them for wanting what’s best for residents? But as demonstrated by other authorities 1) it is unlikely to improve the quality of housing and so is unlikely to work 2) it increases the bureaucratic cost to the Council in a time when we should be streamlining and 3) it will pass hundreds of pounds each year onto hardworking tenants, already struggling with exorbitant rents.
I therefore ask the Council to please reconsider this scheme and the premise behind it, revise it and to do what’s in the best interests of struggling tenants."