Piggybank News

October 1, 2013

Report on MK Landlords Forum 30/9/13

Last nights Landlords Forum at the Civic Offices focussed on the current consultation being undertaken by ORS, on behalf of the council, into licensing in MK.  Needless to say this issue completely took over the meeting and the two other proposed topics of discussion were put off for future meetings.

It was evident that many landlords and letting agents had not been made aware of the consultation until invited to this meeting and were sceptical about both the council’s intentions and the accuracy of any data gathered.

Steve Jarman from ORS did an excellent job of fielding a large range of questions and maintaining a neutral stance throughout.  Housing Manager Linda Ellen also provided information on a number of specific areas.

They explained that the consultation period has been running since July and is due to end on 11th October. They have posted the consultation document to a list of Residents Associations, Parish Councillors and Social Landlords but no Private Landlords other than those with licensed HMO’s.  In addition they have targeted a sample area of MK based on areas of high rental housing AND high antisocial behaviour in order to test the apparent correlation between the two.  In total just over 3000 ( approx 1% of residents) questionnaires have been sent out in addition to the two hundred or so responses they have received online.  Mr Jarman defended this as a “statistically robust” sample size.

Many landlords challenged this process both in terms of the size of the sample and the fact that, despite having an email list of Landlords, and easy access to details of Letting Agents, neither of these central stakeholder groups had been contacted.  They also pointed out that holding the meeting at such a late date left only 2 weeks for responses from these sectors to be gathered.

Ms Ellen and Mr Jarman explained that the final report should be completed by December, with recommendations being placed before Cabinet around March 2014.  They made it clear that whilst ORS are providing the evidence, any recommendations would be made by council officers based on this evidence and would not come direct from ORS.  However, ORS would be able to highlight areas of concern as well as whether the evidence would support action based on the current legislation and the experience of other councils they have worked with (some of whom have had to defend the scheme at judicial review).

The primary issues raised by landlords were as follows…

1) Is licensing just seen as a cash cow? How will the money be spent?

2) How can licensing remedy the problem of anti-social behaviour? It is the problem landlords and tenants that need to be dealt with and penalizing the decent ones won’t help with this because problem landlords won’t bother to apply and the council is already in contact with the rest.

3) Are the council dealing with the problems of antisocial behaviour amongst its own tenant base? Is there any evidence at all to suggest that the problem originates in the private sector instead?

4) Police and council have the powers and training to deal with antisocial behaviour.  In what way do landlords have more power than the police, environmental health or social services?

5) As enforcement costs cannot come from license fees where is the extra money going to come from?  It cost Manchester £500,000. What will be the effect on other vital services whose budgets are already being stretched?

6) Landlords will pass the costs of licensing onto the tenants and this will see an increasing number of benefits tenants squeezed out of an already shrinking supply of housing.




September 12, 2013

Download the MKPLA Presentation about Selective Licensing and what it could mean for you.

Thanks to everyone who attended the recent MKPLA Members Meeting; it was great to see so many people in the room!

We were almost at full capacity, which shows the level of concern felt by so many of us in light of the Council’s proposals to introduce Additional or Selective Licensing.

Committee Members Alex Caravello,  Nikki and Jim Parsler and Zaid Rashid,  jointly delivered a very eloquent presentation full of rather complicated material, and John Socha helped all attendees to understand the ‘hidden meaning’ behind many of the questions asked in Milton Keynes Council’s Licensing Consultation questionnaire.

For those of you who were unable to attend, you can download a PDF copy of the presentation here >> http://tinyurl.com/MKPLApresentation130815.
I hope this helps you to get to grips with the enormity of the problem that faces us all if this licensing proposal is introduced.

We discussed al length whether this proposal is already a ‘done deal’, or whether there is anything we can do to influence the outcome. We discussed several things we can all do to provide this influence, as follows…..

Promote public response to the Consultation

MKPLA is already involved in providing a ‘corporate response’ to the consultation. Our response will identify issues such as:

  • Cost to the Council budget of implementing licensing
  • Reduced inward investment by good landlords in an area that is seen to suffer from burdensome Council red tape and unnecessary costs
  • Restrictions placed by mortgage lenders and insurers in an area labelled by the Council as a ‘hotbed of anti-social behaviour’, low demand for housing, poor quality housing and poor management standards – mortgage availability will reduce and insurance premiums will rise
  • Downward pressure on property values, as a result of the above
  • Upward pressure on rents to cover the additional time spent dealing with the red tape and unnecessary costs

However, our response will only count as one response, regardless of how many members we have, or how many landlords and tenants we represent. It is therefore essential that you make your views heard and respond to the consultation. You can do this online, or by post by visiting the Council’s website at this shortcut >> http://tinyurl.com/mklicensing.

We don’t just need landlords to respond to the consultation; we need all MK residents, so please ask everyone you know (tenants, homeowners, friends, family, etc) to respond to the consultation.

We also need business owners and operators in MK to respond to the consultation, to ensure that MKC understand the potential impact on business of this proposal. If you have links with business networking groups, or work for a large organisation that can promote the consultation to its staff, please do get in touch.

Raise public awareness of the licensing proposals

Similarly to above, we need to get our message out to as wide an audience as possible. We need the general public to understand the potential implications of licensing, as experienced in other local authority areas. We need the public to understand that this could heavily impact on everyone, not just those who are landlords or tenants, but everyone that needs housing … which is everyone! If mortgage availability reduces, house prices drop, rents go up and insurance premiums rocket, we’re all going to be affected.

To this end we desperately need your help to try to get this message into the papers, on the radio and TV. If you have any links with the press, a good working knowledge of social media campaigns, or work in media and public relations, please do get in touch.

Request information from Milton Keynes Council

We believe that MK Council considers Additional or Selective Licensing will be 100% self-funding and cost-neutral on the Council budget. However, the evidence gathered from other Local Authorities around the country that have implemented Additional or Selective Licensing tells us that this is not the case.

We need to be asking questions of MKC to find out whether they have adequately assessed the implications of licensing on other Council services, such as Environmental Health, Homelessness, Adult and Child Support Services, Anti-Social Behaviour, etc.

The Council has stated its understanding that the Housing Act 2004 makes it clear that, in order to bring in licensing there has to be a low demand for housing, but that doesn’t ring true with everyone’s experience of housing in Milton Keynes.

Additionally, in order to bring in licensing there has to be “evidence of a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour … in the private sector.” However, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) figures for ASB in Milton Keynes identify a 29.46% reduction in ASB between December 2012 and February 2013, when compared with December 2011 to February 2012.

You therefore need to be asking these questions of the Council under the Freedom of Information Act, to make sure that, if they do introduce Additional or Selective licensing, it is done for all the right reasons, with all the relevant information to hand.

However, in order to ensure that the Council is not repeatedly asked the same questions, or asked questions to which they have already provided answers, we urge you to contact MKPLA with your questions so that we may assess them before you use the FOI Act procedure. Please direct your questions to foi@mkpla.org.uk.

Anything else!

Finally, if you have any good ideas on how we should tackle this threat, please do let us know. We have done an awful lot so far, but we as an organisation are still limited by our time, knowledge and experience, so please don’t assume we have all the answers! If you want to share, or discuss anything, please do get in touch.

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