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Landlords in some local authority areas are facing a stealth tax as the bureaucrats seek to impose a licensing scheme in a bid to crack down on rogue landlords.

Councils, quite rightly, have a duty to ensure that the law is upheld regarding the duties of landlords. They need to ensure that properties are safe and that necessary repairs are carried out.

Responsible landlords do not have a problem with this but some councils have been adversely affecting ethical landlords in setting up a licensing scheme towards which all landlords must pay. Not only is this an additional expense for the landlord but it also eats into valuable time as they comply with the requirements of the licence.

Inevitably, the additional cost in both time and monetary terms will be ultimately passed on to the tenants, so they will suffer too.

Councils have introduced the scheme in selected areas; they may cover 20 per cent of households, or a particular type of rented accommodation, for example for houses in multiple occupancy (HMO). It is clearly an additional source of revenue for the councils and can swell their coffers quite considerably.

But the licensing scheme is essentially unnecessary and does little to protect landlords or tenants. Responsible landlords will make the requisite financial commitments but those who are ‘under the radar’ will continue to exploit their tenants and house them in inadequate or even dangerous accommodation.

If the aim is to build up a register of landlords in a particular local authority area, the councils already have the means to do this.

A letter from the Department for Communities and Local Authorities has been sent to all councils in England pointing out that they have the right to ask tenants for details about their landlord, who he or she is, and the tenancy agreement. In so doing, the councils can build up a register of rented accommodation and landlords.

The letter says the Local Government Finance Act 1992 already allows local authorities in England to collect data for council tax administration. It is up to the local councils to decide what kind of data they wish to capture.

The Residential Landlords Association campaigns for council tax registration forms to include details about the landlord of the property, which would be a highly effective and low-cost method of setting up a register.

Imposing a landlords’ licence is yet another layer of bureaucracy and an unnecessary additional burden on landlords, it would seem.