Lib Dems lash out at Labour’s landlord accreditation scheme

first_imgOxford City Council is launching a new voluntary landlord accreditation scheme, intended to raise the quality of rented accommodation. It is hoped this will help potential tenants to identify landlords and agents who are dedicated to providing a good standard of housing and service.The Council’s City Executive Board approved the principal of the scheme and is currently in consultation with landlords, letting agents and tenant groups to outline the details of its implementation. The accreditation will act as a “stamp of approval” and allow the Council, as well as organisations such as OUSU, to share information on landlords who have agreed to meet the obligations of the voluntary certification. Labour Councillor Ed Turner, Board Member for Strategic Housing, said of the scheme: “I think students will welcome being given information on which landlords have signed up to our code of best practice.  We are determined to raise standards in privately rented housing.”The plan sets out minimum standards of safety, contractual and service delivery that tenants can expect landlords to meet when initially renting the property, as well as throughout their lease. In addition, landlords would attend a compulsory training day. Safety certificates would need to be provided for all properties in their care.The council enter into further discussions with landlords and letting agents in October, primarily through questionnaires. A Landlords’ Forum will also be held later in the month and the scheme may be modified to reflect any further issues raised.Over 25 per cent of the general housing stock in the city is composed of rented accommodation. A large portion of the accommodation is taken up by students living out.Stefan Baskerville, OUSU President, said: “Students often pay huge rents for properties which have problems with mould, security or disrepair. We’ve had several meetings over the summer with the city council about the accreditation scheme, and we’ll be helping them launch it in the new year. The scheme will help to clamp down on dodgy landlords and improve the quality of housing which students rent in the private sector.” Not everyone believes it will clamp down on inefficient or dishonest landlords. Many Liberal Democrats have called it a “toothless” version of a proposal put forward by their party in February 2008.Steve Goddard, a Lib Dem parliamentary campaigner for Oxford East, called it “a limp-wristed response from an administration that hasn’t grasped the severity of the problem. This incident sends a clear message: the Lib Dems are good for tenants, Labour are good for dodgy landlords.”The Lib Dems’ proposal would have lowered the number of occupants required to be living within a house before Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) licensing was required. This would have meant many smaller rented accommodations would have had to be brought up to the same standards as larger ones before being licensed.The proposal was intended to provide a safeguard against landlords who would purposefully lower occupant numbers in order to avoid the licensing process. One example of such an occurrence was cited in the original proposal application, where a fifth occupant had been requested to vacate a property in Harefields by the landlord, allegedly to avoid the need to licence the property as an HMO.The proposal met with heavy resistance from landlords and agents, however, who claimed that the costly HMO licensing would hit those who genuinely strived to meet the criteria far harder than the dishonest ones.Elizabeth Brogan, Senior Policy Officer for the National Landlords Association, was quoted at the time as saying: “The irresponsible [landlords] will continue to get away with overcrowding their houses, maximising their income and failing to comply with safety standards.”Labour deny any connection between the two schemes, citing the record number of successful prosecutions against landlords who failed to meet national standards as proof of its dedication to tackling with dishonesty in letting property.Turner said of the accusation: “We fully intend to progress both landlord accreditation and licensing of houses in multiple occupation to raise standards; the Lib Dems only proposed one tool. I think students will welcome being given information on which landlords have signed up to our code of best practice. ” Turner challenged the Liberal Democrats to provide some consistency in their message, adding, “In Parliament, Sarah Teather MP, as Lib Dem housing spokesperson, said there was a “danger of over-regulation” of privately rented housing, so perhaps Oxford’s Lib Dems could try getting their own side on board first.”last_img

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