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Consultation on new powers to tackle rogue landlords

Council leaders are being asked to agree to consultation on extending the use of Selective Licensing and introduce new policies to crack down on rogue landlords

Selective Licensing requires landlords to have a licence to operate and comply with a range of licence conditions, in specific areas. The proposal is to start formal consultation exercises on both   re-designating four existing licensing areas due to expire at the end of  June 2020 and extending  selective licensing to  two further areas in some of Wirral’s more deprived communities, to  help drive up the quality of rented accommodation in parts of Birkenhead and Wallasey.

The scheme is focused on areas where there is a higher than average number of private rented housing available, having a higher turnover of tenants and poorer property conditions.

It is a criminal offence to let a privately rented property in a Selective Licensing Area without a licence and failure to have a license, or a breach of the license conditions, can lead to prosecution and to an unlimited fine.  Alternatively, the Council can impose a Civil Penalty of up to £30,000.

Wirral introduced its first Selective Licensing Scheme in the Borough on 1st July 2015 into four designated parts of Birkenhead, Tranmere, Seacombe and Egremont. More than 1,300 Licence applications have been granted in these areas representing over 99% of known licensable landlords.

In these areas 852 properties have been inspected, and 62% of these were informally advised on improvements needed. A further 8% (66 properties) have required formal action, and while prosecutions are restricted to the very worst performing landlords, the Council has seen a 300% increase in the number of prosecutions taken since the start of Selective Licensing.

Cabinet member for Housing and Planning, Cllr Stuart Whittingham, said: “Most landlords take their responsibilities seriously and this is not about them.

“However, we are determined to crack down on those who provide – and profit from – renting out homes which are unacceptable and not fit for purpose.

“I am pleased to be recommending to the cabinet that they approve both consultation on the further use of Selective Licensing and new policies for tackling rogue landlords and protecting tenants in Wirral.”

The cabinet meeting will also be asked to agree a range of new policies and procedures relating to powers to regulate private landlords who fail their tenants including amongst others banning orders, use of the national rogue landlord database and rent repayment orders.