Plans to issue licences for landlords

RENTING standards in Bishopston, Cotham and Ashley Down could improve under new plans to issue mandatory licences for landlords. 

Bristol City Council is consulting on plans to expand landlord licensing, which could lead to several thousand ren cdsted homes being inspected.

Under the plans, some landlords would need to buy a licence to let out their properties. A licence would last for five years, including strict conditions to improve management practices and standards.

According to Labour Councillor Tom Renhard, cabinet member for housing, the council would offer advice to landlords on what improvements are needed. But if landlords do not meet the required standards on these conditions, they could then face enforcement action.

Writing on the mayor’s blog, Cllr Renhard said: “We want to make sure that people renting properties across the city can feel confident that their home will be safe and secure, with clear standards for what this looks like and routes to raise concerns where property conditions are falling short.

“Those in private rented accommodation have lived for too long without adequate protections and with very limited options to guarantee decent living standards. Licensing places conditions on the landlord or agent to ensure that certain property standards are met and that good management practice is delivered.

“While the majority of landlords offer good quality homes and have positive relationships with their tenants, these additional measures would allow us to take action where this is not the case. Previous licensing schemes in Bristol have proved to be successful, helping us to improve standards of accommodation and tackle bad management practices.”

The changes would affect houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) across Bristol, as well as privately rented homes in Bishopston Cotham, Ashley Down and Easton. These areas were selected as evidence suggests they have relatively more privately rented homes in poor condition. Without a licence, private landlords would not be allowed to rent these properties, and could face prosecution or a fine.

HMOs with five or more residents are already licensed in Bristol, so the new plans would affect homes with three or four residents. Privately rented homes not classified as HMOs  would also be licensed — this includes homes occupied by single people, couples and families.

The cost of running the new licensing schemes is expected to be about £16 million. The council will cover the cost of the schemes by charging landlords, but legally would not be allowed to use any income raised for any other council services.

HMO licences would cost landlords about £1,800, with discounts offered for relevant safety and energy performance certificates. Licences for other privately rented homes in Cotham, Easton, Bishopston and Ashley Down would cost £912, also with discounts on offer.

The latest plans were welcomed by opposition councillors in Bristol. Green Cllr Tom Hathway tweeted: “This proposal is long overdue, but a really positive step for Bristol’s tenants. Landlord licensing is one of the few tools we can use as a council to drive up standards through inspections, advice and enforcement.”

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by Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service