What is seen by some Hastings councillors as a ‘backward step’ has been welcomed by the local MP as an opportunity to find, ‘more effective ways of tackling the problem of rogue landlords’.
Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) application for a new selective licensing scheme has been refused by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick. The new scheme would have followed on from the old selective licensing scheme for rented homes, which had run from October 2015 until October 2020.
Welcoming the government’s decision Hastings and Rye MP Sally Ann Hart told Hastings In Focus: “I was opposed to an extension of the Selective Licensing Scheme used by HBC, owing to the fact it was a blanket scheme applying to all landlords. This approach meant that rents went up for private renters making properties in Hastings more unaffordable for local people.
“Moreover, there was little evidence to prove the blanket scheme had dealt with the issue of rogue landlords. There are better ways to improve the private rented sector, so I am pleased the Secretary of State has today not extended this scheme for HBC and I hope the Council will now find more effective ways of taking the problem of rogue landlords.”
The long awaited decision refused a new scheme on the basis that the secretary of state did not believe that the evidence satisfactorily showed there was justification for the scheme in the selected wards in Hastings.
The Housing Act 2004 allows local housing authorities to place licence conditions on landlords to bring about improvements in the standards of rented accommodation in designated areas.
HBC’s leader Councillor Kim Forward says: “We are bitterly disappointed by the decision of the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government not to allow our selective licensing scheme to continue. It has brought about an improvement in the conditions to rented properties and the fact that this additional protection is no longer available means it is the tenants that will suffer as a result.”
Councillor Andy Batsford, lead councillor for housing, added: “During the time the scheme has been running thousands of local families have been protected and slept soundly in their beds at night knowing that their home was safe, and that their landlord was a fit a proper person because of the selective licensing scheme and the officers who inspected them. Thanks to opposition councillors lobbying our MP she has seen fit to not support over 7,000 renting households in our town. I consider this to be a massive dark and backwards step in the protection of our local families.”
HBC says the decision not to allow the scheme to continue will mean at least six council officers who helped run it have lost, or will lose, their jobs.