Packed Wrekin Landlords Association meeting discusses proposed Selective Licensing scheme

A packed meeting of the Wrekin Landlords Association last week indicated that the introduction of the recently proposed Selective Licensing scheme will be the death knell for many Telford landlords.

Mr Bernie Lewis, spokesman for Wrekin Landlords
Mr Bernie Lewis, spokesman for Wrekin Landlords

More than a hundred people attended the meeting at Lightmoor Community Centre, with landlords, tenants, accountants, solicitors, chartered surveyors and businessmen all coming together to voice grave concern for the proposed licensing scheme and the consequential implications for everyone if Telford & Wrekin Council give the scheme the green light.

A spokesman for Wrekin Landlords, Mr Bernie Lewis, said “It has become increasingly difficult to run a private rental business in the current climate. Many landlords are already running at a loss and only continue to operate in the hope of eventual equity increase on the value of the investments.

“However the gloomy forecast for house prices nationally, coupled specifically with Telford’s selected licencing zones, will undoubtedly spell the end of the line for many good landlords who have provided accommodation for Telford tenants where the Council have failed them.”

Currently, the Council are at consultation stage with the licencing scheme which, if it goes ahead, will cost private landlords in selected areas £610 per property. It was however clear from the mood at this week’s WLA meeting that landlords have already decided to either sell if selective licensing is introduced or seek alternative measures to cope with the impossible proposal.

“Alternatives that were enthusiastically discussed included: private landlords refusing to take tenants on Benefits or from the Council’s own temporary housing team; landlords seeking handsome offers from other Councils such as the London Boroughs who are incentivising Landlords to take their overload of homeless families by guaranteeing two years’ rent; housing ex-offenders whereby no licence would be required.

“All of these alternatives could cause problems for our existing tenants who have mostly lived in peaceful communities for many years. In addition, all such actions by private landlords would cause a great many problems for Telford and Wrekin Council who currently have no temporary accommodation available and a massively over-stretched budget.

“TWC is certainly not prepared for the influx of the many additional families that such alternatives would create, e.g. additional families requiring schools, medical facilities, jobs and training. All this would place a huge burden on their resources and consequentially a huge burden on the Council Tax payer. And all this would come on top of Governmental legislation making it increasingly difficult for them to cover the cost of providing suitable, well-priced housing.

“Iain Duncan Smith recently said: ‘Finally it is time to look again at the way we treat private landlords who buy houses to rent. George Osborne’s decisions to impose a stamp duty levy on the purchase of homes to rent, to restrict mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax and to tax a landlord’s turnover rather than profits have already led to landlords scaling back or even leaving the sector altogether. They are a significant provider of the additional housing we need. We should be encouraging them with devices such as VAT relief on conversions or even capital allowances, not punishing them. It’s no wonder buy-to-let purchases have fallen dramatically. We are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.’

“But are Telford & Wrekin Council listening? Clearly not. Instead, they are effectively about to pull the plug and it is vital that this kamikaze action is stopped before it goes too far.”

Mr Lewis says he and his members have identified that there are far more effective ways already in force that could tackle the problem of the isolated poor housing conditions that the Council is using as the excuse for licensing. His committee has, he says, sat down with the Council and discussed alternative approaches, but were told nothing can be investigated further until the consultation period ends on August 21st.

“We also met with many Parish Councillors,” he said, “who, in the main, were understanding and showed concern. It was however apparent that the majority of them had been misinformed with regard to the potential dangers of the licensing process and were assured by TWC that there would be no negative effects and the scheme would be ‘cost neutral’.

“Some Parish Councillors who have now investigated further are discovering that for certain rents would rise, insurance premiums could go up and mortgages could be difficult to acquire. This would not only affect the tenants of Private landlords, it would also diminish the value of owned properties within the licensed areas as the stigmatisation takes hold.

“People must wake up to the dire consequences of the selective licensing time bomb,” said Mr Lewis, “and make their feelings known before a great many Telford families lose their homes and discover that the Council has no alternative accommodation for them anywhere in this area.

“I, therefore, urge the people of Telford: Contact your Council and your Councillors NOW and make your feelings known. Opportunities to meet with them are coming up this month at the consultation meetings being staged in all the proposed licencing areas, so please attend and save your homes.”