A leading member of the private rental market community in Luton has contacted LandlordZONE to highlight the actions of Luton Council over the past 18 months as it has attempted, so far unsuccessfully, to introduce a Selective Licensing scheme.

Luton Council has been thwarted in its attempts to introduce a scheme partly through the campaigning work of local landlords and letting agents, and partly because of errors made by the council.

Quick history

The council tried to introduce a scheme in April 2018, faced significant local opposition and then went silent about its plans until December 2019 when a council committee approved its plans, which were then rubber stamped by its executive committee several weeks later.

After two virtual meetings with concerned locals during July, the scheme was still going ahead. A group of agents, landlords and concerned residents then got together and formed Luton Landlords and Letting Agents Ltd, whose solicitor then launched a legal challenge.

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The council then admitted errors in its implementation and decision making, and the scheme now appears to be on hold as the council says want to “continue to work with landlords to help drive up standards in the town and will be undertaking a further review to gauge the current need for/scope of any new Licensing scheme.”.

What went wrong

The person involved wishes to remain anonymous but says the story in the public domain is only part of the picture. They claim that:

  • The communication and consultation efforts during the process have been poor and designed to keep locals out of the process.
  • Luton Council over-egged problems within the private rental market to justify its Selective Licensing decision.
  • The council revealed a conflict of interest – it said if landlords didn’t want to sign up to the scheme, they could rent their homes through the council’s own ‘social tenants’ lettings agency.
  • Councillors Dave Stevenson (Private Sector Housing and Enforcement) and Councillor Tom Shaw ignored calls to justify the scheme or explain how it would improve standards in the town.
  • Landlords and agents were given a matter of weeks to apply for the scheme which, given the 10,000 properties involved, was optimistic given it was during the height of the Covid lockdown.
  • Luton Council failed to follow the proper statutory procedures for bringing in a Selective Licensing scheme and, it now transpires, did not have the authority to make a designation and bring in the scheme at all, which should have been submitted to the Secretary of State for approval, making the original attempts to introduce the scheme unlawful.
  • Luton has wasted significant sums of taxpayer cash at a time when it claims to be under financial stress.

“We should be able to trust that people employed by the Council are competent to do the job, to not mismanage their resources, get value for money from staff and contractors, provide much needed services to local… not wasting taxpayer monies and trying to introduce stealth taxes,” our source says.

Council response

In response to these criticisms, Luton Council tells LandlordZONE: “Like many other local authorities Luton Council has been looking to improve the quality and condition of housing in the private rented sector and to promote good landlord practice and enforce against poor practice.

“Some areas of the town have high numbers of privately rented accommodation and are also areas where we have seen complaints about anti-social behaviour and a range of other issues. This remains a real concern for the town.

“The Council has been considering a Selective Licensing scheme for a number of years and has had extensive engagement with the sector including meetings and consultation with both landlords and tenants living in the private rented sector.

“Landlords have been plenty of notice of the schemes introduction and training was also made available on how to complete the forms on line. The delay from May 1st to August gave an additional period to prepare.

“The decision not to go ahead and implement at this stage is based on an error made in the figures set out in the original report. According to the Housing Act of 2004 social housing providers are exempt from licensing.”

9 COMMENTS

    • Hi thanks for the comment Paul. The article focuses not on the scheme’s popularity or whether it’s needed or not – but the mistakes that the council has made while trying to implement the scheme. A highly respected barrister has looked over the council’s licensing paperwork and confirmed that it was incorrectly put together and arguably unlawful. So it is not a lie or propaganda – we are rightly letting landlords know how badly things have gone wrong in Luton – councils need to do things properly!

  1. Selective Licensing scheme should be implemented by every council , far too many landlords getting away with unfit homes, mantra is the same , greed greed , would many landlords live in these properties, somehow I doubt it , a home is a home not a cash cow , sadly we as a country promote this

  2. Paul, as a person who’s family has always rented privately, having had both good accommodation and decent landlords throughout the years (currently residing around LU1), my neighbours and I are vehemently opposed to this, we’ve done our research, particularly it’ll only add unnecessary red tape, meaning costs will rise – which will mean indirectly rent increases to tenants like me/us, more so after reading how other city’s problems have escalated because of other similar unneeded schemes, that’s only created further issues with the likes of subletting etc.

    These schemes are just another legal money grab, of which, it’s the end user that always ends up paying for.

    Yet Luton council, again, has no issues in wasting £££’s of other people’s money, and failed successfully and spectacularly due to their own sheer Incompetence: yes, so who’s going to pay for this, yet again!

    Arrogant councillors who believe they know better, why try to fix something that is not broken, that’s in actual fact working quite well.

    More unbelievable bureaucracy by control freaks, of which will only create a worse situation, councillors only wanting more tax payers money to again waste.

    As in general these scheme are not needed, and will only prevent many landlords/investors, who could also easily withdraw their investments, which then leads to further issues, as diminishing supply of private rental property’s will in turn add more pressure to demands for an already over stretched social housing, where councils are burdened even more by something they cannot resolve overnight, that’ll also creates an unstable unhealthy environment for children to grow up in, and then you have it where these children grow to young adults: but will have to stay at their parents home for much longer than they would like, it simply will not work!

    • This is exactly right. Basically councils and the police already have all the powers they need to deal with any problems that might arise in relation to residential tenancies. The fact that a landlord has a license will make absolutely no difference to the fact that they may end up with an anti-social tenant, and landlords will look in vain to the council for help with situations like this.
      So I have been renting out a 4 bedroom HMO below my flat for over 30 years, with no problems regarding antisocial behaviour or anything else. I have always kept the rent as low as possible and discussed improvements/upgrades with the tenants as and when they were needed, in terms of what they were prepared to accept in terms of rent increases. I am now obliged by the council license to pay for additional red tape and frankly unnecessary checks and renovations, meaning that I have no option but to increase the rents to cover these costs. Who benefits? Not my tenants, who had control over the balance between the state of the property (always good) and what they pay. Not me, as it only increases my costs and gives no assistance to a landlord in any respect. It is a completely tokenistic act by councils, jumping on the landlord-bashing bandwagon, and seeing the opportunity to make some money at the same time.
      How this will benefit tenants in the long run, or ‘drive up standards’ without driving up rents, is beyond me.

  3. Hi, it’s a useless scheme – landlords don’t want extra red tape and admin headache and tenants don’t want to pay for it (which they indirectly will obviously) – if a tenant is not happy they have a dozen solutions at hand already so a 13th solution is not required.

    The Council is going through a MASSIVE CRISIS AND SHORTFALL and need to reallocate staff to where it’s urgently needed.

  4. Luton Selective Licensing Scheme has been revoked completely, I just checked their website!! Financially struggling and now their Luton Selective Licensing Scheme is gone, they can’t penalise the vast majority of good landlords.

    Just another example of Councils using their powers to raise money rather than tackle the issues. Councils have powers to tackle rogue landlords and they should use them first. Every town has good and bad properties, if the Council are not tackling the bad landlords now, there is no chance they would with a selective licensing scheme in Luton. Common sense, do you go after the 10 bad landlords or tax the 90 good ones?!

    If there are issues with HMO’s, they could re-introduce additional licensing for HMO’s which had previously expired in Luton. Any recent application for HMO was not processed because the additional licensing scheme had expired. Instead of renewing it, they are packaging it with Luton Selective Licensing Scheme. Typically confusing the issues to gain support for something that isn’t really needed.

    • The scheme has been revoked, the designation was revoked and is on their website. They cannot implement a scheme without making a new designation.

      In the meeting they lied about why they put it “on hold” saying they got last minute legal advice.

      What they actually said about the current position was that Selective Licensing was one of the options they would consider. But clearly stating that they are now collating evidence means they had no justification before.

      Nothing concrete!

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