Ten years ago Salford City Council became the first council in Britain to introduce landlord licensing to drive up management standards in the private rented sector.
Landlords criticised the scheme, claiming that having to pay for a licence would put them out of business; tenants, some of whom were living in appalling conditions, welcomed it.
Now Salford councillors have given the go ahead for the seventh such scheme – this time covering just over 600 private rented homes in Charlestown and Kersal.
Over 2,800 homes are now covered by a licensing scheme – and the city’s private rented sector has expanded.
Councillor Paul Longshaw, lead member for housing and neighbourhoods, said: “I find it incredible in the 21st century that people who buy washing machines seem to have more consumer rights than people who rent their home from a private landlord.
“That’s something which needs to change nationally but in the meantime we will continue working with landlords to make sure people in Salford get decent privately rented homes. Most private landlords in Salford do provide good homes and we have worked with them to meet the standards and help them tackle problem tenants, but these powers enable us to take action against those who don’t.
“When we launched the selective licensing scheme 10 years ago, landlords were understandably apprehensive but many have since told us they welcome the scheme because it makes clear what’s expected of them and their tenants.
“We have always tried to work with landlords and since the first licensing scheme was introduced in Langworthy, of over 1,100 cases where landlords have been formally notified of issues with their properties or their tenants’ behaviour, the vast majority have responded positively without the need for further enforcement action.
“Only 93 landlords and seven managing agents, out of more than 2,000 operating in the city, have had to be prosecuted. The charges included failing to licence their properties, breaching licensing conditions or failing to address issues and resulted in fines of more than £153,000.
“The move to introduce selective licensing received strong support from Salford Citizens Advice. They help around 1500 people a year with serious housing issues often relating to rented homes – and this could be just the tip of the iceberg as these are the people who come forward looking for help.
“Earlier this year Shelter published a shocking report which showed that 40 per cent of private renters in Greater Manchester are living with damp, mould and dodgy electrics. Local MP Rebecca Long-Bailey spoke of one Salford mum whose small children were sleeping beside walls covered in black mould in a damp and cold privately rented flat. It’s conditions like that which we need to stamp out.”
Selective licensing schemes – which run for five years - make it a criminal offence for landlords to rent out a house without a licence or to fail to comply with conditions set down by the licence which cover areas such as regular safety inspections, maintaining the house in good repair and dealing with any instances of anti-social behaviour by their tenants.
Two landlords have had to pay back to the public purse over £20,000 they received in Local Housing Allowance whilst operating without a selective licence. Three landlords have ‘lost’ their four properties for refusing to comply – the homes have been placed under management control orders, meaning they are still owned by the landlord but managed on behalf of the council by a local housing association for a fee.
The new scheme, which was introduced after consultation with landlords, tenants and residents of the area, covers properties around Gerald Road, Littleton Road, Cromwell Road and Seaford Road areas.
Schemes are also in place covering parts of Langworthy, Weaste and Seedley, Eccles and Barton and parts of Broughton.
More information about landlord licensing.