Headlines: April 1st, 2003

Local authorities have welcomed proposals in the draft Housing Bill which will give greater powers to councils to license certain types of accommodation. The Local Government Association had lobbied for the move as it believes it will improve both the standard of rented housing and protection for tenants.The draft Bill, which was published yesterday, includes two new local authority-run licensing schemes. One involves houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and is designed to ensure the easier enforcement of higher standards of maintenance and management. The other proposal is that councils should be given powers for licensing private landlords in areas of low housing demand.

Paul Jenks, who chairs the LGA’s Housing Executive, said the licensing of homes with multiple occupants was something for which the Association had been lobbying for, for many years. It would help to ensure greater protection for tenants in around 120,000 of the most vulnerable households in the country, he claimed. The draft Bill’s proposals include provisions for councils to apply discretionary licensing on a wider group of dwellings subject to consultation and agreement by the Secretary of State.

The licensing of private landlords would go a long way, Mr. Jenks said, to dealing with unscrupulous landlords and anti-social tenants who were undermining regeneration efforts. But he said the problem of anti-social behaviour and landlord harassment was not restricted to low demand communities and the LGA would like to see the introduction of licensing for the whole of the private sector in the longer term.

“These two sets of licensing arrangements would help to pave the way to tackling a range of social and economic problems in destabilised communities and encouraging regeneration,” he added.