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The council responsible for a controversial licencing scheme in the private rented sector is attempting to defend its launch on the grounds of safety and health. On 1st August, a new licencing scheme was introduced by Nottingham Council to cover around 32,000 properties rented privately.This will account for approximately 91 per cent of the total rental properties in the area, and makes it the second such program in the UK, after London.

The scheme received a negative response from landlords when it was introduced, and has reportedly had a minimal take-up by landlords so far. However, the authority has now issued an official statement defending the scheme and justifying its introduction as a way of aiding tenants at the mercy of what they call ‘bad landlords’. Nottingham Council stated that in the last year they have carried out approximately 280 actions against landlords by enforcement using legal notices due to bad conditions.

Principal Environmental Health Officer for the council’s ‘Safer Housing Team’, Steve Matthews, has explained that the most frequent issue the council sees is problems concerning fire safety. This often includes properties without smoke detectors installed, as well as homes with a lack of doors and a method of escape in the event of a fire. Matthews also claims he has seen many properties which have no heating or hot water, due to the landlord’s failure to maintain equipment and their refusal to provide fixes when equipment is faulty. Issues such as these and many others not only put tenants at risk, but also the rental property and neighbours.

In a new case in Nottingham, he explains that tenants who were frantically searching for accommodation, chose to move to a home in which the kitchen had previously been completely removed, with the landlord promising that a replacement kitchen would be fitted shortly. However, the kitchen was never fitted, and the tenants continued living with no cooking or food storage facilities.

Jane Urquhart, one of the councillors responsible for the scheme, claims this new licencing will make tenants aware of the duties of their landlord in property standards and management. She claims that by providing a series of clear guidelines, which every landlord is required to meet, the licencing program will help deter problem landlords from cutting corners or undercutting the good ones. This is positive news for landlords that are following the law and operating legitimately, with Nottingham Council striving to become renowned for supplying good housing for all.

The fee for a licence will cost landlords either £480 or £780, depending on their accreditation. Nottingham Council maintains that it will not generate earnings from the licencing scheme, as the council states that the income derived goes directly towards the costs of operating, setting up and administering the program.

The council has explained that it believes the fee for a licence should not require landlords to increase rent, but they understand that some have chosen to do so. If landlords have chosen to increase rent, they are encouraged by the council to follow the correct legal procedures and not exploit their tenants. The authority has worked to offer reduced fees, with a saving of £300 for accredited landlords.

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