The Housing and Enforcement Manager introduced a report for Members’ consideration to provide an update on the current status of the Selective Licensing scheme and to advise on future proposals. He summarised that the Selective Licensing scheme in the Gainsborough South West Ward was approved at Prosperous Communities Committee on 22 March 2016. The scheme then came into force on 18 July 2016 for a five year period. As well as providing the current position of the scheme, the paper also set out the proposed approach to the final stages of the existing scheme and a timeline for future work in relation to selective licensing for West Lindsey District Council.
Members heard there were currently 748 licenses that had been granted within the designated area and a further 47 applications in progress. It was estimated that around 92% of properties were now licensed within the area. The original estimation for the number of licensed properties was 550. The Council was aware of 21 unlicensed properties however Members were advised that this number did fluctuate based on the proactive work undertaken to review each street.
It was explained that, whilst on conclusion of the scheme the licensing requirements would no longer be in place on landlords, the Council still had the ability to utilise all of its usual Housing Act and other regulatory powers to enable formal action to be taken as required. There would, however, be no ability to require additional conditions, which were placed on as part of the scheme, to be met by landlords. Following on from the scheme concluding in July 2021 it was proposed that further work was undertaken to consider whether a new Selective Licensing scheme was appropriate for West Lindsey. It was highlighted that the scheme had delivered a number of positive benefits for the area and the full scheme review would consider these in more detail. Members were advised of the timescales for future review, with proposals being presented to the Committee in the springtime of 2022.
There was significant discussion amongst Committee Members regarding the balance between supporting conscientious landlords whilst still addressing difficulties with less scrupulous landlords, as well as considering circumstances where tenants were difficult to engage with. It was acknowledged that some landlords had felt unnecessarily penalised by the scheme and some ongoing issues with other landlords and tenants had not been resolved. Councillor T. Young highlighted to Members that he had shared some photographs of the area in advance of the meeting and these demonstrated areas where problems had not been resolved. It was confirmed that these photographs had been received.
With regard to the role of the tenant, it was highlighted that the legislation was aimed at landlords however there was the need to better address how to support not only tenants, but also landlords who experienced problems with tenants. This would be considered as part of the review and for any future proposals. It was also stated that the review of the scheme would not be looked at in isolation and an holistic approach was already underway, for example with the implementation of the Viable Housing Solution. Members welcomed this approach.
Previous criticisms of the scheme were highlighted and a Member of the Committee expressed the need to involve all main stakeholders in discussions as to how to shape future options. Members acknowledged that there were ongoing areas to be addressed however it was felt that overall, the scheme had demonstrated a positive impact on the area and welcomed the options for improvements in the future.
In response to concerns as to the period between the existing scheme ending and any other scheme being implemented, Members were assured that under the powers provided by the Housing Act, the council would continue to work proactively in the area.
Having been moved and seconded, the Chairman took the vote and it was
a) the expiration of the existing Selective Licensing Scheme, on July 18 2021, be noted;
b) the approach set out in section 7 of the report, in relation to the conclusion of the scheme, be agreed, meaning:
i. no further charges to be made after April 1 2021 for new applications
ii. inspections to be focussed on high risk issues
iii. the approach to formal action to take into consideration public interest and the 6 month period within which any offences can be formally progressed.
c) further work, to be undertaken by Officers to explore options for a further selective licensing scheme, with these options to be presented back to Committee as per the timescales set out in the report, be approved.