A scheme cracking down on bad landlords could be extended to four areas on the Wirral where people are living in “pretty awful conditions.”
Wirral Council first introduced the selective licensing scheme in 2015 in four small areas before extending it further in 2019 and 2020. At the moment there are currently 10 areas covered by the scheme.
The local authority is getting public feedback on plans to extend the scheme in two areas and introduce it in two others. These are west Birkenhead, Seacombe, St Paul’s, Bidston and St James West, and Egremont North which have above average numbers of rented properties.
Photos previously released by Wirral Council as part of investigations under the scheme show people living in awful conditions and in 2023, the local authority was the first in the Liverpool city region to ban a landlord for risking tenant’s safety.
At an economy and housing committee on 19 July, Wirral Council officers said there had been 533 compliance inspections at properties since 2019 but 37% are still meeting poor standards. There have also been 18 prosecutions against landlords, formal action against 47 properties, and 113 empty properties now being used in these areas.
Prosecutions could end up with landlords receiving an unlimited fine, risk jail time, or pay a penalty of up to £30,000. Since the scheme was first brought in, there have been 75 prosecutions against bad landlords in total across all areas.
Housing and renewal manager Emma Foley said, “The scheme has had a significant impact in improving properties, property condition through compliance inspections and proactive engagement with landlords, tenants, and residents in these areas.”
She added. “The inspections have shown what we have always known which is that the most vulnerable tenants won’t complain about their poor housing conditions”which was why the council needed to be proactive.”
When the scheme was first introduced, Ms Foley said, “We were absolutely appalled at the conditions we found, we weren’t expecting it.”
She said some people were living in “extremely poor, extremely hazardous housing so it’s not uncommon to find dangerous boilers, dangerous electrical wiring, extensive damp and mould.”
However, while the local authority has engaged with landlords, she added, “There has been some resistance every time because some of the good landlords don’t feel they need this additional regulation but we are prepared for this.”
Councillors did ask if it could be extended to more areas but officers said the scheme would be better targeting areas where rented housing quality was poorest.
Birkenhead councillor Ewan Tomeny praised the scheme calling it “essential,” adding, “I’ve chatted to people at their doorsteps and been in their house living in pretty awful conditions in rented properties.”
Chair of the Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee, Cllr Tony Jones, said, “Selective Licensing is about making sure people live in decent homes. We know that most landlords take their responsibilities seriously but some others profit from renting out homes which are unacceptable and not fit for purpose – and they are the ones we are determined to target.
“The use of Selective Licensing will help us in tackling rogue landlords and protecting tenants in Wirral.”
A link to the consultation can be found here
Images: Images from inside rented homes across Wirral. Photos from 2017/2018 Image credit: Wirral Council. Images taken so as not to identify a specific property.