New powers to crack down on rogue landlords in Wirral

Tenants in private-rented accommodation in some of Wirral’s most deprived neighbourhoods will now get greater protection from rogue landlords.

Members of the Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee have approved proposals to continue the Selective Licensing scheme in two existing areas and introduce it for private sector landlords in two further areas, from 2024 until 2029.

Selective Licensing requires landlords in these areas to obtain a licence to operate and agree to a range of conditions around the standards and management of their accommodation. The aim is to drive up the quality of rented accommodation and will focus on parts of Birkenhead and Wallasey.

The scheme is targeted at areas where there is a higher-than-average number of private rented properties available, a higher turnover of tenants and poorer property conditions.

The four areas affected are Birkenhead West, Seacombe St Pauls, Bidston and St James West, and Egremont North. The latter two areas are where the new schemes are proposed, the first two have already been subject to Selective Licensing since 2019.

As Selective Licensing schemes have a maximum duration of five years, the council has to make a robust case for extending an existing scheme – or introducing new ones – and consultation with residents, tenants and landlords is part of that process.

This took place earlier this year and received the highest-ever number of completed questionnaires of any consultation held on proposals to introduce Selective Licensing in Wirral.

The consultation saw 544 completed questionnaires received, the majority being through the council’s online “Have your say” consultation portal, and the majority (84.9%) of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with selective licensing proposals.

In areas where there is Selective Licensing, it is a criminal offence to let a privately rented property without a licence or breach any of the conditions of the scheme. Any landlord that doesn’t fully comply could be prosecuted and receive an unlimited fine. Alternatively, the council can impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

Wirral first introduced Selective Licensing in 2015 covering four small parts of the borough. That initial programme ran until 2020 and resulted in 57 individual prosecutions for landlords who failed to get a licence or other Housing Act 2004 offences.

So far under the second scheme (2019-24), there have been 18 successful prosecutions and one Landlord Banning Order confirmed after an appeal. However, those numbers – and those for the start of the third scheme (2020-25) – were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant no inspections could be carried out between March 2020 and September 2021.

Chair of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee, Cllr Tony Jones, said, “We know the majority of landlords take their responsibilities seriously and this is about ensuring that all of them do so. Selective Licensing is about making sure people live in decent homes and making sure others don’t profit from renting out homes which are unacceptable and not fit for purpose.

“The use of Selective Licensing in these targeted areas will enable us to continue to work in partnership with landlords to ensure minimum standards are met.  It will also help us tackle those rogue landlords and ensure tenants in Wirral live in decent homes – as they should.”

Image: Wirral Council

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