‘Good landlord’ scheme is axed

PLANS to axe a landlord accreditation scheme in Hartlepool have been rubber-stamped by councillors.

The decision by Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee, which is chaired by Mayor Stuart Drummond, follows an internal review of the in-house accreditation service.

The service had already been suspended pending the findings of the review which found it needed “significant development and investment”.

Instead private landlords will now be encouraged to take up membership of independent nationally recognised accreditation schemes.

The Landlord Accreditation Scheme was first introduced by the council in 2002 and the aim was to promote good practice within the private rented sector in town, while also recognising those landlords who manage their properties to a good standard.

It is a non statutory service which is administered entirely through the council by officers based within the landlord and tenant unit of Housing Services.

Membership is voluntary and there is no fee charged to landlords who apply to join and in order to obtain accredited status the rented property belonging to the landlord must satisfy recognised housing standards.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director, regeneration and planning, said that an internal audit inspection of the scheme had been carried out towards the end of 2011.

Mr Wilson said the main recommendation within the report was that the service would need “significant development and investment” in order to achieve its intended aims and objectives.

He said the scheme was subsequently suspended, to allow a thorough review to take place which also considered all the viable alternatives to an ‘in-house’ scheme.

Mr Wilson said: “During this review consultation took place with all landlords participating in the existing scheme as well as with all landlords and managing agents operating within the areas of the town designated for Selective Licensing.

“Despite contacting over 140 landlords for their views, on the way forward for accreditation, there was an extremely poor response with only one landlord replying.

“Accredited landlords currently benefit from a heavily discounted licence fee in Selective Licensing areas.

“The research undertaken during the review has shown that the number of properties now registered with the scheme has increased significantly since licensing was first introduced and now exceeds 1,600, a rise of approximately 80 per cent, a substantial number of which are located within the designation.

“This suggests the primary purpose of applying for membership is simply to qualify for this discount.”

Mr Wilson said there is several schemes administered by nationally recognised organisations, and professional regulatory bodies, which landlords can apply to join.

They are focused around the management and competency skills of landlords and agents.

Mr Wilson said membership of the national schemes is subject to compliance with a range of qualifying criteria and code of practice.