A group of landlords has threatened legal action after City of York Council approved a landlord licensing scheme designed to boost standards in the city’s private rented sector.
The move extends the licensing scheme to HMOs (houses of multiple occupation) with fewer than five occupants across eight parts of the city.
Executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods Coun Denise Craghill said it was “a really important step forwards in improving the standards of accommodation and the management of properties in the private rented sector in York”.
But Andy Simpson, chairman of York Residential Landlords Association, said he had been advised by housing law experts that the additional licensing is unlawful and they have a “strong case” for a legal challenge.
Mr Simpson, who is CEO of York-based Landlord Broadband, said there were concerns about the data the council gathered to justify its decision via its consultation, whether the council was using its existing powers effectively and the impact it could have on council-tax paying residents.
He said landlords favoured a voluntary scheme run by a third party and that he did not believe the cost to the council of £500k per year would be self funding.
“These schemes look lucrative for local authorities but no licensing scheme [elsewhere in the country] has been self-funding,” he told councillors. “So you’re essentially asking York residents to part-fund this scheme through council tax.
“You can’t make an informed decision on a multi-million pound proposal that is essentially loss making with such a small statistical sample.”
Mr Simpson confirmed after the meeting that a legal challenge was still on the table.
But Coun Michael Pavlovic, whose Hull Road ward is one of those affected, urged the council’s executive “not to be cowed by vested interests”.
The council report noted that instances of the failure to meet health and safety standards, inadequate room sizes, lack of natural light, failure to provide appropriate kitchens, bathroom or toilet facilities and failure to provide appropriate heating or minimum energy efficiency standards had all been recorded in the city.
“It cannot have come as a surprise that only 15 per cent of tenants and 18 per cent of non-tenants thought landlords maintain their properties to a good standard,” Coun Pavlovic said.
“Of course landlords don’t want to be further regulated, when did they ever? But you need to hold firm and not succumb to threats of legal action.”
Coun Craghill added: “Voluntary schemes have been tried in the past and not worked. Licensing will not only significantly improve conditions for tenants, but will also improve the management of properties and reduce their impact on nearby residents.”
Labour leader Coun Claire Douglas said the move was “tremendously important”.
The council’s head of housing delivery Michael Jones said: “It is considered that the evidence presented is sufficient to pass a test of the Housing Act in implementing additional licensing.”
The wards affected by the new licensing scheme are: Hull Road; Guildhall; Fishergate; Clifton; Heworth; Micklegate; Osbaldwick and Derwent and Fulford and Heslington.