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Bonkers Blog April 2018

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23 April (Part 1) - Rent it Wrong

I wondered if it is in some way part of their attack on rogue landlords but Bexley Council has embarked on another of their on-line surveys. The latest is at www.bexleyhousingstudy2018.co.uk.

It was first noticed over the weekend when it appeared to be suffering technical problems which most people may not have noticed. It was redirecting to an http site and not a secure https. Considering how much personal information is requested it was a pretty poor show by Bexley Council’s contractor. It would probably fall foul of the new General Data Protection Regulations. Fortunately the survey contained contact details and the error has been speedily corrected.

I got as far as Page 3 of the survey before deciding it was getting far too nosy for me.

If the survey is in some way connected to HMOs and landlord licensing it provides an excuse to pull together a few snippets of information from a variety of sources.

Rent it RightCouncillor Maxine Fothergill told me just before I got news of her libel case that she and others had concerns that Bexley Council was not addressing the HMO problem in a sensible manner. The real problems arose not so much from rogue landlords but from rogue tenants and their Anti-Social Behaviour.

She claimed that Teresa Pearce MP shared her concerns but the Council officer involved, Kevin Murphy, dismissed them totally. Mr. Murphy was congratulated by the Deputy Director at the Cabinet meeting for the part he played in setting up the licensing scheme.

An FOI designed to extract location evidence for ASB was refused on the grounds that addresses were personal. Councillor Fothergill said that some of the tenants were “very undesirable”.

The correspondence went on to say “the licensing scheme is in a mess over how to implement the scheme and police it”. One of the issues was that Bexley Council consulted only Bexley based landlords and that had been ruled unlawful by the Courts. (R. Regas v LB Enfield.)

Councillor Fothergill was associated with those who were keen to Judicially Review her own Council.

Since Fothergill faded from the scene further comment has been difficult to come by.

Not all landlords are rogues and some are capable of reasoned research. That has led them to believe that Bexley Council has managed to licence only 26 HMOs out of the 224 known to them and 43% of ASB incidents are allegedly traceable to those HMOs. There are no indications that Bexley Council knows how to tackle the problem with its HMOs.

Housing Association tenants are said to be responsible for levels of ASB not far short of HMOs but Bexley Council is allegedly unconcerned by that. They publish only a combined figure for Housing Associations and owner occupiers where ASB is rare and thereby mask the facts. Landlords say that is a deliberate deception. Housing Associations are exempt from licensing.

The 3,000 privately rented properties are said to be responsible for 17% of Bexley’s ASB which suggests to me the true figure for the exempted Housing Associations may be around 40%.

It has been reported - but evidence is now impossible to obtain - that Bexley’s panel which considered the licensing scheme was against Selective Licensing but their decision was mysteriously omitted from the minutes of their meeting. Just like an EU referendum result, it was not the right answer.

The landlords claim that Selective Licensing will target only a small percentage of the properties responsible for ASB and cost in excess of £1.3 million to implement. It is further suggested that if Bexley fails to enforce Selective Licensing as it has the mandatory HMO licensing it will not only fail to tackle ASB but not cover its costs either.

Covering costs will require licensing to reach 100% and even the optimists at Bexley Council do not envisage that for at least five years.

I can’t help thinking that Councillors should have better scrutinised these plans but far too often they accept answers which even I can see have big holes in them.

Note; This report pulls together information from several sources all of whom are on the landlord side of the argument and with little hard evidence. Informed comment or corrections would be welcome.

 

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