The licensing scheme was introduced in 2015 to drive up standards in Liverpool’s private rented sector and is due to end on 31 March.
Landlord licensing schemes require all landlords of privately rented properties to obtain a licence and abide by its conditions. Failure to obtain a licence or a breach of its conditions can result in a fine.
Jenrick rejected the application to renew the scheme because the council’s applications “did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city”.
Low housing demand, where the standard of accommodation is so poor that tenants refuse to rent in the area, is one of the grounds councils can use to justify an application for a licensing scheme.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is writing to the government to challenge the decision to reject the application which he says was backed by both Mersey Policy and Mersey Fire and Rescue Services.
Government approval is needed for licensing schemes that cover more than 20 per cent of a council area.
Fire safety concern
Liverpool wanted to continue with a city-wide scheme due to the size and scale of its problems in the private rented sector. Private rental homes account for up to half of housing in some areas and cover 55,000 properties in total.
The council said the decision will “severely hamper” its attempts to drive up housing standards and keep vulnerable tenants safe in rented properties. The council said fire safety is a particular concern.
Overall, 70 per cent of inspected properties in in the city have been found to be in breach of their licence conditions since the scheme was launched in 2015, according to Liverpool City Council figures.
Inspections uncovered hazards such as fire, electrical safety and excess cold.
Over 37,000 compliance actions and more than 2,500 legal and fixed penalty notices have been issued and almost 250 landlords have been prosecuted.
However, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which campaigned against the application to be renewed said most breaches of licensing conditions had been for administrative errors such as a landlord failing to have copies of the tenancy information pack.
The RLA said a Freedom of Information request also revealed that not all wards had sufficient hazards to warrant a licensing scheme. Furthemore, the new fee for a licence would be £100 more than the current fee.
RLA policy manager John Stewart said: “Liverpool’s application for a second new city-wide application was doomed to failure. Unlike their initial scheme, the renewal required permission from the secretary of state, and robust evidence to back the application.
“The RLA made it clear that the council’s evidence failed to justify a city-wide scheme on the basis of low demand. The council’s own statistics showed increasing house prices and lower void periods across many areas of the city.”