Communities and Local Government CommitteeSupplementary written evidence submitted by Leeds City Council

Leeds Neighbourhood Approach

As part of the review into services the LCC decided against further discretionary licensing in favour of a more flexible approach to area based improvements.

Whilst seen as a success, Selective Licensing has had a number of limitations in terms of improving the private rented sector. It is specific to management issues and does not cover standards, and there are significant costs to the creation of the initial business case. The one area in Leeds took two years to develop and get approved at a cost of around £100k to the authority.

Using the lessons learnt the Council has developed and has recently implemented its Neighbourhood Approach.

This will target neighbourhoods on a street by street basis addressing the area as whole and dealing with standards in the private rented sector as well as empty homes. Partners who are working with the Council in this approach include the Police, Fire, third sector organisations, Care and Repair and employment services.

The model involved identifying areas of high numbers of rented properties and empty homes, poor environmental standards, high crime levels etc. The aim is to improve the area overall not just the housing stock. Other agencies will be involved in improving the area. Everyone in the area will be offered help and advice around energy efficiency, benefit checks, employment opportunities, fire safety checks and crime prevention visits regardless of tenure.

In terms of the private sector, all landlords, including managing agents and tenants have been written to offering any help and advice we can to improve their property and business. Other landlords are being asked to mentor those who need help with issues around their business or tenancy issues. These landlords will be from our accreditation scheme or national associations and have considerable experience and knowledge of this business. The aim is to help landlords with their business and for them to improve their management standards. The details of how the mentoring will work are being finalised.

Landlords have been given a 6/8 week period to come forward to work with the Council and others before we adopt a more formal approach. This will involve the full use of all legal powers to address issues in standards. The aim is to inspect 100% of all privately rented properties in an area and to ensure that they meet the legal minimum requirements. However it also looks to educate and improve the knowledge and management skills of landlords to try and improve the area longer term and make the area more sustainable.

This approach is seen as more flexible than licensing; can target a single street or 4/5 streets over a 6/9 month period rather than have a scheme for up to five years. The team which has been set up can work on areas throughout the city using this approach as they are identified or they become an issue. Once it is up and running it is hoped that there could be up to three of these areas in operation in various parts of the city at any one time.

Selective Licensing

The area was designated as an Discretionary Licensing Area in October 2009. Currently there have been 576 licences issued. As a result of the work done by the team 47 prosecutions have been taken against landlords operating within the area; 42 of these have been for operating without a licence. Currently there is a programme of inspections to ensure all licensable properties fully comply with scheme conditions and legal minimum standards. These are programmed to be completed by October of this year.

Throughout the life of the scheme regular meetings are held with partners to consider progress and to encourage better joined up working. These partners include Planning, the Police, Fire Service, the ASB team and the local environmental team.

Whilst it is difficult to separate the results of selective licensing on the area from the overall regeneration of the area, comparison with the control area has shown:

A reduction in crime—criminal damage, theft, vehicle crime, domestic burglary have all shown a greater reduction than in the control area.

Rent levels have remained the same as in the comparison area.

There has been a fluctuation in empty home levels but this can be attributed to one landlord with a large portfolio within the licensing area but with no presence in the control area going into administration. Overall the selective licensing area has seen a decline in the number of empty homes since its introduction.

Property prices have remained similar in relation to the comparison area, with no decline in prices which was a concern of landlords who opposed its introduction.

A perception survey amongst partners showed they thought it had been a success.

Fees Structures in LeedsLicensing/Accreditation

Selective Licensing

For the full five years the licence was agreed at £525. This was the average fee level for a mandatory HMO licence at this time. If you were a member of an accreditation scheme—Leeds City Council’s or Unipol—you attracted a £75 discount per licence.

For every year the scheme has been in operation new owners would be offered a continual 20% reduction year on year until year five when a new owner would be paying only 20% of the original £525, namely £105.

Where owners have tried to claim a reduced fee after the first year, but had owned and let the property, since the scheme’s introduction they would be charged the full £525 fee.

HMO Licence Fees

HMO LICENCE FEES (WEF AUTUMN 2011)

Property Type

HMO Licence Fee
(Accredited Landlord)

HMO Licence Fee
(Non-accredited Landlord)

5–6 Occupants

£583.45

£700.14

7–8 Occupants

£749.27

£908.96

9–14 Occupants

£1,105.49

£1,332.73

15–19 Occupants

£1,228.32

£1,455.56

20 or more occupants

£1,351.15

£1,578.39

Licence Discounts

A discount has been applied to the invoice for a HMO licence if, at the time of issuing the invoice, the applicant for the HMO licence owns the property and is a confirmed member of the Leeds Landlords’ Accreditation Scheme (as administered by RLAAS Ltd) and/or a full, not just advertising member of the UNIPOL Code of Standards. The accreditation discount to the HMO licence fee will NOT be applied if we issue a invoice and your application to either of the above accreditation schemes is pending. You should note that once you have submitted your HMO licence application in most cases, an invoice is issued immediately. We will not retrospectively apply the accreditation discount to an existing invoice and there is no “proxy” entitlement to the accreditation discount by virtue of an “association” between a none accredited and an accredited member. Accreditation discounts will not be available to landlords where it appears that a timely application has not been made to the council.

There is also a discount if you are a member of the UNIPOL Code of Standards. If you only use UNIPOL to advertise your property you will have to pay the full amount.

If we receive a request to alter a licence there will be a charge of £100 per licence. Multiple variations may be eligible for a discount depending on the nature and complexity of the request.

We will charge £150 for any application we receive from a landlord who wants to “buy” the unexpired term of an existing licence. This can arise for instance, if you have bought a licensed property from an existing licence holder, and you want to apply for a new HMO licence in your own name. Application, renewal and request for variation forms can be found in downloads on this page.

Leeds Landlords Accreditation Scheme Fees

COSTS TO LANDLORDS—ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP FEES

Membership of LLAS costs from only £45 per year depending upon the number of rented properties you own:

Number of Properties

Fee

Up to 5

£45

6–10

£90

11–20

£135

21–30

£180

More than 30

£225

Discount for Unipol Code Landlords

We do not make any charge for properties that are fully occupied by students and which are declared to Unipol if you are a Unipol Code Landlord. In addition you also receive a further discount of £20 on the normal LLAS membership fee.

June 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013