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Bristol Council Proposes Stricter Renting Measures

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Bristol City Council is proposing tighter measures for private renting under a new licensing scheme in an effort to drive up the standards of private accommodation. If the scheme goes ahead, landlords will be charged a fee for licensing their properties. A consultation is now underway.

Bristol Council’s consultation

The council has launched a ten week consultation on plans to introduce licensing requirements for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Titled “Improving the quality of private rented properties across Bristol” Cllr Tom Renhard, cabinet member for housing delivery and homes explained in a blog post that the council believes licensing will help to improve the quality and management of private rented properties across the city.

“Having a safe and secure roof over our heads is key to ensuring we all have the best possible opportunity to live a happy and healthy life but, unfortunately, many renters still live in poor-quality homes. We want to make sure that people renting properties across the city can feel confident that their home will be safe and secure, with clear standards for what this looks like and routes to raise concerns where property conditions are falling short”

Cllr Tom Renhard

The ten week consultation focuses on plans to introduce licensing requirements for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) citywide, and to certain properties in the Bishopston and Ashley Down, Cotham, and Easton wards.

The proposed scheme covers two types of licensing:

  • Additional licensing will include a house or flat that is occupied by three or four unrelated people who live together and share some facilities including kitchens and/or bathrooms.
  • Selective licensing will include private rented properties that are occupied by one or two tenants, or a family, but are not HMOs.

The council argues that private rented accommodation has been identified as more likely to be in poor condition or have lower standards of management than other properties. On the basis that previous licensing schemes in Bristol have proved to be successful in improving standards of accommodation and tackling bad management practices, the council asserts that it will continue to take action to crack down on criminal landlords who do not meet the legal requirements for a safe and secure living environment. This also includes the use of banning orders where necessary.

The first discretionary licensing scheme ran from April 2013 to April 2018 in the Stapleton Road area. The scheme was set up to help tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB). In total, 1,207 properties were licensed as part of the scheme. Of these, 396 (33%) properties had at least one serious hazard resolved, 845 (70%) required improvements to meet licensing conditions, and 10 landlords were prosecuted for 37 offences.

“Those in private rented accommodation have lived for too long without adequate protections and very limited options to guarantee decent living standards. Licensing places conditions on the landlord or agent to ensure certain property standards are met, and good management practice is delivered”

Cllr Tom Renhard

The importance of licensing

Licensing is just one way the council is looking to further improve the private rented sector. The Living Rent Commission was set up to look at how the sector can be improved, including what the impact of rent regulation across the city could be.

The commission concluded that private renting in Bristol faces a serious access, affordability, and security of tenure crisis which is impacting the wellbeing and quality of life for people and playing a major role in creating homelessness. The report, written by the University of Bristol, sets out a range of recommendations based on evidence of the challenges we face and potential solutions we could introduce. We made sure that a wide range of people were heard during the process, including listening to the lived experience of tenants, residents and landlords.

If the licensing schemes go ahead, landlords will be charged a fee for licensing their properties. A license will normally last for five years and conditions would be attached to the license to improve management practices and standards. This includes anti-discrimination practices, which now also includes discrimination against people because they are in receipt of welfare benefits.

Landlords will be offered advice and guidance on the necessary improvements required to ensure properties comply with licensing conditions, but where landlords do not meet the required condition standards, enforcement action may follow.

Final thought

Bristol City Council is demonstrating a commitment to improving the private renting sector to ensure tenants are better protected. Through an open consultation, the council is willing to hear from landlords, residents, agents, and local organisations that may be affected by the changes.

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