Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Room With a View

If you watched the second Channel 4 documentary last night, on 'Rogue Landlords'  and the awful suffering they can cause the most vulnerable people in our society, you may understand why I, for one, am very keen on the recent introduction of a limited, selective licensing scheme for landlords here in Thanet.

As a local councillor, I come across some pretty unpleasant stories from time to time and in I'm only too well aware that in the most deprived and hard-pressed areas here and elsewhere in the country there are those who are prepared to profit from the misery of others.

It surprises me at times how some social housing landlords, will deny the evidence of damp, unheated, crumbling, bug-ridden accommodation, when, like last night, they are confronted with incontrovertible evidence by the likes of John Snow and both Bournemouth and Croydon councils came out looking very poor as a consequence.

There are, of course, growing pressures on local authorities at present, in attempting to find suitable housing for the homeless and the vulnerable. At the same time, there are those who build a successful business in delivering slum accommodation for the desperate or unlicensed and illegal garden sheds for untold thousands of desperate migrants between Southall and Slough.

It's an enormous problem for Government of any party to tackle, facing a tide of demand with limited and over-stretched resources, against businessmen who may deploy the best lawyers to defend their often indefensible positions. All this in an environment where successful prosecution can be an expensive challenge.

This gives me one more reason to think that proper licensing and an enforceable contract between local government and landlords providing social housing in targetted deprived areas is a sensible if not necessary step and you can read the Shelter report here.

What do readers think I wonder? A good idea and used more widely or simply allow market forces to protest and prevail at the expense of those with most to lose in society?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure whether the landlord tax fixes the problem as it targets all landlords good and bad. The problem comes when the bad landlords (mostly from outside Thanet) wave two fingers at TDC will they be pursued to the ends of the Earth?
Identifying the sub standard housing is simple just visit those areas and look at the properties its pretty obvious which ones are letting the side down.
Is it not a pity that there is not a law that allows councils at a last resort to confiscate property that is in total neglect. In Thanet we have so much run down empty property. Surely it would be better to renovate it instead of passing plans to build hundreds of new houses on good farmland. This would be beneficial to our towns instead of putting money into the pockets of developers and creating more ghettoes in our towns.

John Holyer said...

Your question is loaded to invite a negative, "or simply allow market forces to protest and prevail at the expense of those with most to lose in society?", so in this respect it is a bit of a non question.

I agree that these rogue landlords must be pursued and taken to task. I see good in allowing councils to inspect sub standard properties, and to pursue and prosecute the landlord as the law permits.

But to have the council dishing out licences to let is not a good thing. Presumably there would be a charge for the licence which the landlord will pass on to the tenant. There would also be scope for bribery [but most certainly not in the case of TDC]. We need to reduce the power and bureaucracy in Local Government, not increase it.

I find it difficult to accept that there are not already adequate laws in place for TDC to use.

DrM. said...

Selective licensing has been shown to increase the resource available to manage the problem and in other areas of the country, constrain the activities of both problem landlords and anti-social behaviour from problem tenants.

John Holyer said...

What is meant by [1]selective licensing? [2]Who gets selected? [3]On what criteria are they chosen for selection? [4] Has this been costed within TDC?

John Holyer said...

Sorry Simon, I don't mean to be pedantic but what do you mean by the words, "has been shown to increase the resource available to manage the problem". It sound like vacuous management speak. What exactly are you trying to say?

DrM. said...

John

It's a personal observation rather than a lecture and so if readers want greater detail there's lots available through a quick internet search.

From Thanet's perspective see

http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest_press_releases/selective_licensing_agreed.aspx


Resource = income from the scheme which = greater resource available to deal with the problem!

Hope that helps

Anonymous said...

anon again!
Just watching 'The Great British Property Scandal'. It seems a lot of Councils are sitting on 'empties'!
Is the TDC doing this too? If so, they might also be considered 'Rogue Landlords'!
I would hate to think that Thanet's Finest are doing so, but now I will have to ask around to really make sure they are not!

Readit said...

Your whole approach omits to comment on the existing responsibilities of any council in this matter. In the case of Bournmouth and Croydon, those local authorities were actually placing the tenants into the sub-standard accommodation.

Take away the tenant and the landlord will clean up his act, there is no need for licencing, just another extortion tax on landlords, which will be applied across the board for revenue generation.

I am sure you will tell me that TDC is "more pure than blown snow" in this scenario.

DrM. said...

I think Ken, you exagerate somewhat!

An immediate problem as expressed by the Guardian today is London authorities like Croydon or Tower Hamlets sending their housing problems to the coastal towns and to landlords who may not show up up on the local radar. Catch a train from Victoria any day and play the guessing game as to where your fellow passengers are going. It's not hard to spot the travellers heading for Margate, which begs the question of concern to seaside local authorities, who is sending them and where are they being sent to given the efforts made by councils such as Thanet and Hastings to stem the flow from the city.

This is one reason, beyond efforts to manage the migration, why I for one, believe its necessary to learn from the CH4 documentary and the recommendations made by agencies such as shelter in regard to the provision of decent housing for the most vulnerable to an approved standard

Readit said...

Simon, If I am reading your last comment correctly, I think you are saying that you have no control over London Boroughs sending benefits claimants to Thanet, and you solution is to license landlords to improve accommodation.

Thanet's self-inflicted deprivation stems from landlords with empty guest houses filling them with London Borough migrants and the generations that follow.

The problem will not be solved with a license it needs to be sorted at source.

DrM. said...

Ken
Thanet's deprivation is far from 'self inflicted' and reflects that circumstances of many other seaside towns that were built upon tbe 19th and 20th century tourist economies that evaporated with the arrival of cheap air travel.

In regard to inward migration, this is a problem that collectively, authorities such as ours seek to resist but we have no internal passport system in this country and no lawful means exists to prevent London discharging the pressure it faces in our direction.

Many local people have invested in flats to take advatage of the benefit economy and one might support one part of your argument that collusion created a self inflicted problem as large houses and hotels were turned into flats.

I have introduced a policy to attempt to prevent the spread of single bed flats any further but 20 years of development, which was quite legal, had unforseen consequences which i deplore from a local perspective

Anonymous said...

Simon, what say have you had on the 18 one bed flats in the planning application for eurokent?

I'd say if you are "attemtping to stop the spread of one bed flats", you couldn't start somewhere easier than a council owned development, could you?

Readit said...

Simon, It is interesting to hear your perspective from the sharp end and I sympathize with your dilemma and lack of influence over the situation.

However,in the current economic climate do you not think that the London Boroughs will be recommending an increase in permanent seaside holidays, the high speed train will bring them here quicker and by forcing landlords to provide decent accommodation the circle is complete, Dole-on-Sea Part II (apologies to Thanet Waves for plagiarism).

I do not have all the answers, but some dissuasion may be better for the Thanet economy in the long run.

Peter Checksfield said...

Why the discrimination against single people without families who choose to live on their own? Surely a better way would be to ensure that the one person accommodation is decent rather than trying to prevent it?

Retired said...

The BARLOW scheme of Bolton Council seems to work OK. They hold meetings for local landlords. Joint strategy for tackling anti-social tenants. BARLOW members meet standards to register. Electrical as well as gas etc. I think the council housing people refer applicants for housing to BARLOW members too. Persons who would otherwiser languish on waiting lists for ever. If I fwd you one of the reular emails Simon that will provide you contact details for the council officers at Bolton who admin the BARLOW scheme. Best wishes. I will fwd to your cllr email.

Anonymous said...

Many of the comments in the blog are based on sensational TV documentaries.

There is a danger, that such perceptions will further weaken the position of landlords.

I had beautiful house which was trashed by tenants. I was unhappy. I sent the tenant a Section 21 notice, requiring possesion of my property within 2months. The tenant went to the council, and she was advised to ignore the legal notice. I was then forced to escalate the matter and go to Court to get possession of my house. Even during the process, the council was helping this ASB tenant, stay in my house. When I got possesion order. I still did not get my house. The council told her to ignore the Cout's possession order and wait for the landlord to appoint court baillifs (which take another 2 months). It took me 6-8 months to get her out.

If you had visited my property, you would think I was the 'slum landlord' given how she had trashed my property. She was a crafty tenant, would blame all the damage she had cause on the landlord.

I believe the reason, these tenant trashed my home, was to be fast tracked to a council or HA home.

I was angry when I heard this London Council was re-located to a sea-side town. It is reward for bad behaviour.

It seems that tenants are just been passed around....

No Landlord, has ever rang me up for a reference for her.

Anonymous said...

" have introduced a policy to attempt to prevent the spread of single bed flats any further but 20 years of development"

From my experience in London, where the Private Rental Sector bought 1 / 2 beds and housing associations were building 3 bed family homes. Most of the ASB and trouble makers come from housing associations. It is the youths from those house holds who cause the maxumum amount of damage. Although, their parents not involved, but they don't stop their kids doing stupid things. Gang of kids, smoking drugs openly, jumping into people gardens and then threatening with knife etc...

The grass always looks greener on the other side....