Bernard Priest
Cllr Bernard Priest: 'affordable housing is a real concern for Mancunians'

Government housing regulations ‘failing private tenants’

Alice Cachia

Bernard Priest, Manchester City Council’s deputy leader and Ardwick councillor said the lack of support for councils regulating private landlords “represents a clear division between the interests of Manchester people and the insiders that are currently in power”.

His comments were made during a neighbourhoods and environment scrutiny committee meeting in the Town Hall yesterday. The licence is an attempt to improve housing standards for private residents in areas across the city. Selective licensing can be introduced if a location meets specific criteria, including having homes in poor conditions, areas with high crime levels, and places where few people want to live.

Licensing began in Crumpsall in March, and the Moss Side and Rusholme licence came into effect this week. Moston and Old Moat are still in the pilot stage but will become designated areas by early 2018.

The five-year period aims to regulate private landlords by charging £400 for each property they let. The goal is to improve housing standards and management of properties for private tenants. Landlords who operate without a licence will face enforcement and even prosecution. Currently, only 12 landlords from 358 in Crumpsall are still letting properties without the licence.

Priest added: “There is no support in the Government for this kind of scheme and since 2010 the Government has had in its mind the idea that landlords are good and tenants are bad. We’re wrestling with that. We are pressing ahead to the limit of our resources here and we’re not going to be far off the limit of our powers.

“It would be great if we could have a Government that would support ordinary people and would recognise that the private rented sector needs to be regulated just as the social rented sector is. The social rented sector is regulated very heavily and the private rented sector isn’t regulated at all and any attempt we make is going to be resisted by the Government.

“I think it’s a fairly typical piece of Manchester versus the Government but we’re going to stick it out. This is working, it’s got the support of ordinary people. But we know that Manchester landlords are challenging ministers with this every day.”

A three-month lead-in licensing phase has begun for Moss Side and Rusholme, which covers 1,200 homes. Landlords have until 8 January to apply. It is estimated that those who operate without a licence will have enforcement taken against them in autumn next year.

Paul Beardmore, Manchester’s director of housing, noted that the Moston and Old Moat pilot phase has seen on average 88% of residents agreeing with the ideas of a licence and more than 70% of landlords disagreeing.

In both areas, 10% of all rented properties were given internal inspections, selected at random. The most frequently noted hazard was fire, recorded on average 17 times in Moston and Old Moat respectively.  A designation for both areas will be sent out in early 2018. Once licensed, officers will inspect 50% of properties over the five years.

Further proposals for the Ben Street area of Ancoats, along with Clayton, have been gathered. Because it is an area outside of the pilot scheme, a report will be submitted seeking approval to consult landlords and tenants. This is likely to be due later in autumn or winter, and an additional £18,700 will be required to deliver the consultation.

Liverpool launched its landlord licensing scheme in 2015, and Chester and Preston offer landlords voluntary accreditation.

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