Hundreds of private landlords in Beeston Hill are still to register with the mandatory Selective Licensing scheme brought in by the Council over two years ago.
The scheme aims to drive up standards and was brought in because local landlords were not joining a voluntary city-wide accreditation scheme. The licence covers issues such as gas and electrical safety, making sure fire alarms are in working order and ensuring that all furniture provided is safe. Landlords were required to register for the scheme by 6 January 2020 or face a fine of up to £30,000.
Leeds City Council estimate that 200-300 landlords in the area are still to register. They are investigating all properties within the area and have investigated 123 landlords to date.
Once landlords have registered properties are inspected to check they meet the minimum standard. This process has been hampered by Covid, but since March 2021 357 properties have been visited, 90% of those were found to need further work to meet the required standard.
Landlords opposed to the introduction of the scheme claimed that it was a “tenant tax” that would drive rents up, but the Council says this hasn’t happened.
“Rent has increased within the private rent sector across the city over the last 2 years, in line with increases seen across other cities. In terms of the selective licensing area Leeds City Council has no not seen any specific increases as a direct result of its introduction” said a spokesperson.
We spoke to a number of landlords and tenants in the area, some of whom wished to remain anonymous.
Tahran Ali is a local resident who owns 4 properties in Beeston Hill, and is one of the directors of Leeds Landlords Unite – who campaigned against Selective Licensing. He estimates that as many as a quarter of landlords haven’t yet signed up.
“The Covid pandemic’s been difficult for landlords, and Selective Licensing has just made things harder. It’s the local small-timers who’ve been hit hardest, not the growing number of mega landlords based in London and elsewhere. I still can’t see any point to Selective Licensing: what’s it achieved? It’s been imposed in an inflexible and even aggressive manner, and it’s made no discernible improvement for the local community it was meant to serve. Housing hasn’t really been improved: it’s a bureaucratic exercise. It’s driven rents up. And quite a few landlords have converted their houses to temporary accommodation, like Airbnb – which makes our community even more transitory. I’m not attacking the Council: I recognise what they do. But as a local resident, I care about this area, we face lots of problems here, and Selective Licensing wasn’t the answer.”
Some landlords we spoke with were more positive about Selective Licensing. Khaleeqa* said:
“I’m new to being a landlord, and wanted to make sure our property was fit for purpose and safe. Selective Licensing is a good thing: we valued the Council inspection, which gave us advice, and took our fears away. My main issue is with the local property management agents, who are taking landlords for a ride.”
And another landlord, Mary*, told us:
“The scheme was poorly communicated (I didn’t know about it until the last minute), but it’s a good idea: there are a lot of rogue landlords, and I hope they really go after them. Also, it does cost a lot, and I’d like to know what they’re doing with the money.”
A Leeds City Council Spokesperson, said:
“So far nearly 2,000 homes have been licenced with a further 500 homes currently in the process of being licensed. The scheme is helping to ensure landlords continue to manage their properties and ensure their tenants have a well-managed and safe home. Unfortunately not all landlords are complying with the scheme resulting in formal action being taken against just over 100 properties with more action to follow.
“Street by street proactive visits are now occurring to ensure that all privately rented properties are licensed, these visits have initially start in the Bartons and Beverleys. Through the proactive work we will ensure that all homes in Beeston are safe, well managed and provide good quality accommodation. Working with partners, council officers will continue to work with tenants to help address their needs, such as employment and training, help with bills, and access to health.”