Not happy with the standard of your rented place? Do something about it. Last week we told you about a new scheme, currently under consultation, aimed at addressing Liverpool’s shockingly bad private rental market. It’s a bold move that could see the country’s first licensing scheme outside of London. But why does it matter? And what can you do to support it?
We spoke to Dan Wilson Craw, from Generation Rent – the nationwide lobby group for the rented sector – to get his take on it. They’ve set up Generation Rent Liverpool to organise the 100,000 private renters in the city and – initially at least – fight for better regulation of landlords. With just a couple of weeks left, and a concerted campaign against the scheme from the National Landlords Association Dan says, now is the time to fight for a better standard of living for everyone…
“There are 100,000 people renting from a private landlord in Liverpool. It’s a tenure with a reputation for housing students and young people starting their careers, but as fewer people can afford to buy a home or face a wait of years for a council house, more families and older people are getting stuck there.
“And it can be pretty grim. On average, about a third of private rented houses in England fail the government’s decency standard, with either leaks, insecure doors or windows, broken heating, damp or mould – all things that can put your safety and health at risk. When you can’t escape those things in your own house, that’s unacceptable. The situation in Liverpool is even worse: 43% of tenants live with one or more of these problems.
“We have relied on the free market to weed out the dodgy landlords for far too long, with nothing to show for it. A vacant flat just needs a lick of paint to cover up any mould, and prospective tenants wouldn’t expect the heating to be on when they view the property. It’s only later, a few weeks down the line, after you have paid your moving costs and you’ve just settled in, that you start to notice damp on the walls – or even when the days start getting colder and you realise you can’t get the radiators to work. That’s why tenants need effective regulation to force landlords to fix problems if necessary.
“The council has powers to prosecute landlords who are cutting corners and failing to protect their tenants. The trouble is that at a time of spending cuts, Liverpool council doesn’t have enough resources to inspect all rented houses. This is why they have proposed a new licensing scheme for all landlords in the city. As Seven Streets reported the other day, all landlords will need to register and adopt a set of safety standards or face fines. By registering the majority who do things by the book, the council can focus its time and money on clamping down on the rogue landlords.
“A consultation is taking place before the council introduces this and predictably landlords are up in arms. The National Landlord Association admits that there are substandard properties, but it claims that the fees involved will push up the rents of legitimate landlords and benefit the criminals. But the most a landlord will pay is £100 per year, with planned discounts for landlords who register early.
“Nevertheless, the NLA is throwing everything it has at stopping this policy that could benefit more than 20,000 households in Liverpool who are living in squalor. Renters need to make their voice heard too, and they have only one week left to tell the council what they think. Generation Rent is the national group representing the country’s 9 million renters – we have begun a local campaign in Liverpool with a website that enables renters to respond to the council’s consultation and show their support for this positive step in the right direction. After years of powerless against dodgy landlords, renters finally have a chance to restore some balance.
“The consultation has just one more week to run, and the risk is that the noisy landlord lobby will scare the council off from pursuing these important reforms.”
If anyone wants to stop landlords profiteering from their tenants’ misery, they can add their name to the campaign by visiting http://liverpool.generationrent.org/licensing. You’ve got until 16th June to be heard.
Images used for illustrative purposes only