Last Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron dropped what seemed to be a bombshell upon landlords.
Commenting specifically on the private rented sector, the Prime Minister said:
“We’ll also crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime.”
Now it seems to be unclear exactly what this will mean for the private rental sector. Most commentators have so far been focusing on his announcement that the current ‘right to rent’ trial in the Midlands where landlords or their agents must check the immigration status of tenants is to be rolled out nationwide.
But what about this new mandatory licensing regime Cameron mentioned? No details have been released as of yet regarding timing, how it would be enforced or whether it would include letting agents. It does seem likely though that agents will be included as agents tend to act for landlords and can bear legal responsibilities for the ‘right to rent’ checks and other duties.
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Local councils already operate a mandatory HMO licensing scheme for certain larger Houses in Multiple Occupation and have the power to introduce selective or additional schemes to extend licensing to a wider range of private rented accommodation.
Up until now, the Tories have always seemed to reject such policy and it did not originally appear in their election manifesto.
The last Labour administration said it wanted landlord – and letting agents – licensing but had never introduced it.
Cameron also said: “There are other ways we can identify those who shouldn’t be here, for example through housing. For the first time we’ve had landlords checking whether their tenants are here legally.
“The Liberal Democrats only wanted us to run a pilot on that one. But now we’ve got a majority, we will roll it out nationwide, and we’ll change the rules so landlords can evict illegal immigrants more quickly.
“We’ll also crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime. And, a bit like ending jobs when visas expire, we’ll consult on cancelling tenancies automatically at the same point.
“It’s not just through housing and jobs; we can track down illegal migrants through the banking system too.”
Commenting on the announcement, Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said:
“We welcome the initiative taken by government to tackle the problem of criminals acting as private landlords to exploit illegal migrants.
“However, it is essential that councils are given the necessary funding to ensure that they can enforce these powers effectively. This would help drive up standards in the sector and send a powerful message to criminals.
“One of the fundamental reasons that a minority of criminal landlords are able to get away with providing poor living conditions is that councils do not have the resources to make use of their already significant powers.
“We would like to see the Treasury allow councils to keep the proceeds of the fines from prosecutions so that councils have both the powers and finances for enforcement, without going cap in hand to the Treasury.
“The introduction of a new mandatory licensing regime brings up some concern. We are therefore urgently seeking clarification on whether this would be new policy or related to the current licensing schemes.”
A transcript of the Prime Minister’s full speech is available here.
So now that Cameron has dropped this bombshell on us all, its all just a matter of waiting to hear the Queens thoughts in her upcoming speech.
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