GAVIN Barwell and Sarah Jones, the two favourites for Croydon Central at next year's general election, are on opposite sides of the debate when it comes to the council's plan to introduce a landlord licensing scheme. Labour's Sarah Jones believes the policy will tackle rogue landlords and drive up the standard of private rented accommodation. Mr Barwell, on the other hand, is leading the campaign against the scheme which he calls a 'stealth tax'. The Advertiser asked both politicians to lay out their positions:
TYPE "rogue landlord" into Google and the results make for uncomfortable reading. Soaring rents, appalling conditions, sudden evictions.
But, increasingly, councils from Glasgow to Brighton are cracking down on behalf of their residents.
Landlord licensing establishes a list of accredited landlords who follow a clear code of practice. It arms councils with powers to deal with unscrupulous landlords and badly behaved tenants.
In Newham, the licensing scheme has been a success. It has cracked down on tax-dodging landlords who demand cash-in-hand and won back an extra £294,434 in council tax.
The scheme is not just about successful prosecutions. It acts as a deterrent, establishing a new culture of responsibility and support.
Most landlords are decent and some have to contend with bad tenants. We want to root out anti-social behaviour and create stronger communities for everyone – private renters and homeowners alike.
Newham say their worst landlords are moving out – will they come to Croydon? Much private rented housing in Croydon is already sub-standard. Rents have gone up 10 per cent in a year and not many tenants complain through fear of sudden eviction.
Your Labour Council is working to ensure people have a decent home. Licensing is part of a much bigger programme of more affordable housing and job creation.
I am on the board of a housing association and my experience tells me this scheme will work.
We need a single point of contact within Croydon Council for landlords and local forums to root out any problems.
At a cost of around £2 a week to landlords, there is no evidence that this will be passed onto tenants. Scaremongering Tories should be taken with a large pinch of salt – remember their false prediction that Labour would increase council tax by 27 per cent.
Labour in government will reform private renting and reduce residents' bills. We will ban agent fees that are on average above £350, introduce three year tenancies providing more security and cap mid-tenancy rent increases.
The next generation will struggle to find a house in Croydon that they can afford – to buy or to rent. The previous council did nothing for eight years. We're ready to act now.
CROYDON Council is planning to introduce 'selective licensing' of the private rented sector. Despite the title, there's nothing selective about it. Every private landlord in the borough would have to pay £200 per year to the Council for each property they rent out.
It doesn't take a genius to work out what will happen if the Council goes ahead with this policy. Most landlords will pass the cost on to their already hard-pressed tenants.
Lest I be accused of scaremongering, the council itself admits this is what will happen. At a national level, Ed Miliband is saying rents in the private sector are too high; here in Croydon, his councillors are pursuing a policy which they admit will push them even higher. You couldn't make it up.
No-one would deny that there are problems with the private rented sector. A small minority of landlords keep their properties in a very poor state of repair. But the Council already has powers to tackle this - it doesn't need to introduce licensing. And in any case, the landlords who are behaving in this way - who know they are breaking the law – aren't going to pay.
So why is the Council doing this? It's quite simple really: because it will raise about £4.5 million. It's a classic stealth tax. The Council is hoping that tenants will blame their landlords for the rent increase and it will get extra income without having to take the flack for increasing Council Tax.
I'd encourage Advertiser readers to let the Council know what you think of this barmy scheme, by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to Shayne Coulter, Head of Housing Standards & Enforcement, Zone D, 3rd floor, Bernard Weatherill House, 8 Mint Walk, Croydon CR0 1EA.