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Birmingham propose huge landlord licensing scheme

Landlords in many parts of Birmingham could soon have be licensed to operate their property rental business if the council is given approval by the government to implement a large-scale and controversial licensing scheme. 

A consultation process has now been launched by Birmingham City Council which will run till the 3rd January 2022. Local residents, landlords and businesses now have the opportunity to comment on the council’s licensing proposals at: www.birminghambeheard.org.co.uk 

If the proposed scheme for selective licensing is approved by the government via the Housing Minister, then private landlords in 25 council wards in the city of Birmingham will need to apply for a licence to operate. These specific wards are deemed to contain a high percentage of rental housing and as such, some residents have been suffering from the impact of overcrowding in properties and also with anti-social behaviour issues. 

The city council also brought in a city-wide Article 4 direction in 2020, requiring planning approval for private landlords to convert residential properties into an HMO of any specific size. 

West Midlands based landlord Mary Latham, with some 48 years of experience of renting out properties to local tenants and formerly the regional representative for the NLA, responded to the council’s announcement. 

“The proposed introduction of selective licensing in these areas is not new,” she said, “it was voted in favour of it some five years ago but didn’t happen. This was probably due to Birmingham City Council (BBC) not being prepared to put the resources behind it and in fact they cannot even keep up with mandatory HMO license applications. If you check their website you will find that there are 758 applications going back as far as 2017 and they haven’t yet been processed by the council.

“The implementation of selective licensing by BCC in many parts of the city, if approved, will do nothing solve the problems of anti-social behaviour in these areas” said Mary.

She stated that many of the ‘issues’ are being caused by vulnerable people in these locations being placed in properties by social housing provider groups via leases with landlords and which are then exempt from landlord licensing.” 

The ‘strategy’ which has been increasingly applied by landlords and sadly by some rogue, criminal property groups is to use mainly residential property as an investment niche. Working in conjunction with a social housing provider, those in dire need of housing such as the homeless and former prisoners being rehabilitated into society, are provided with homes on a shared accommodation basis. When done correctly and in many cases it is done so, the ethical operators are providing a much needed service which benefits all parties not least the tenant occupants.

“Unfortunately in too many cases as seen in Birmingham,” said Mary, “these people are not being adequately supported as they should be by some housing charity groups and so the occupants often go out into the neighbourhood, causing havoc and worrying the local residents. The residents then call for licensing of landlords and unfortunately the Councillors at BCC just don’t understand the limitations. 

“Since these properties are exempt from landlord licensing, BCC staff cannot enforce property standards nor management standards and so the problems grow all the time as more and more properties are being used to house vulnerable people. As of August there were 22,000 claims in payment and this figure has doubled in three years and it this which needs to be controlled. 

“The sad thing is that properties in all these areas are quite affordable in rental terms for many people who can’t manage the rents in the city, and also for those who are on LHA rates. Licensing will only increase landlords overheads which will then be passed on to tenants from rent increases and push the rents outside of the reach of many people, including families, who could then become homeless.” 

“No one has seemingly thought this through, nor have they talked with the staff who are working hard to prevent homelessness in the city, often depending on private landlords to provide desperately needed housing.”

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