I attended the landlord forum at the town hall last week, where Joe McManners and Ian Wright explained the how the extension of the licensing scheme would be rolled out, and took questions from the floor on issues that were pertinent to landlords and points that needed clarification.
One of the most interesting discussions was around costs. The proposed cost of inspecting and issuing licenses, with or without conditions, is, as far as could be ascertained, higher than any other local authority who have decided to extend licensing. This was justified by explaining that all property will be inspected, and that the issuing of licenses would not be "just a paper exercise". It was noted, however, that it would be useful to have more clarity on the costs by providing a break-down for users.
There was also clarification on what would be required in terms of minimum standards in any property requiring licensing. The document we will be referred to is published on the Oxford City Website, and includes the minimum standards in relation to space and facilities.
It is also clear that whilst every effort will be made to ensure consistency across the city, officers will have to treat each property on its own merits and ensure that recommendations for conditions for licenses are made on a case by case basis. Findings from recent land tribunal cases have made it clear that blanket conditions cannot be imposed. Landlords and environmental development officers will have to be circumspect in their assessment of hazards to avoid unnecessary reversion to Residential Property Tribunals.
It is important for us all to remember that the reason for this extension of licensing powers is to improve the quality of housing stock in the PRS. The officers and conscientious landlords have a shared agenda.......... to remove the "unfit" landlords, agents and property from the market place; to this end, we must welcome the principal of the new scheme even if we need further clarification on how it will work in practice and how it will be resourced.
Further information on the scheme is available through the Oxford City website, and will be updated over the next few weeks. College and County will be happy to assist landlords with their applications, and will charge a nominal fee for this work.