Paper tigers

I am cynical about the efficacy of self regulation. I cannot see it working in many circumstances. The Press have singularly failed to effectively police themselves over the years, and I do not see Southend-on-Sea’s landlords doing much better.

For all its faults I wanted selective licensing approved. Instead we have SEAL. I have been promised a review after a year by Cllr Lesley Salter, and I intend a reminder if it is needed.

I can give an example of how SEAL fails.

There is a flat owner who shares a garden boundary with the upstairs neighbour. The resident upstairs are tenants of an absentee landlord. The fence that separates the gardens belongs to upstairs, and is in some state of disrepair – to the point where it is dangerous to young children. The neighbour’s garden is also very overgrown.

The flat owner contacts the letting agents with a view to having the fence repaired or replaced – no response. Contact is attempted again, and the outcome remains the same. This is attempted over a number of months. The absentee landlord ignores all communications (but does not ignore the rent coming in from his tenant). Eventually the flat owner contacts SEAL. The absentee landlord is not a member, and nothing can be done.

The flat owner will either have to seek the legal route, or fix the fence themself. Not a satisfactory outcome at all.

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2 Responses to Paper tigers

  1. Dave says:

    SEAL needs time to establish its self as time goes by it will become more effective, as a landlord I am expecting it to benefit in a number of ways, this will ultimately benefit the tenant. Although in some circumstances SEAL will not be effective against non members however selective licensing in not the right solution, this will just push up overheads and eventually lead to increase rents or exiting of locations of were SL is introduced. Good landlords (although i guess you dont believe in that concept) are trying to maintain and increase standards in very difficult economic times where costs, overheads and defaults are increasing. There are some very bad landlords and poor low grade housing in Southend, these need to be addressed directly by the council, don’t hurt the good guys, you may drive them away, then all you will be left with is the bad guys.

  2. I do believe in good landlords, and had I been wealthy enough I may have been one of them. I also believe there are bad landlords. The problem is that bad landlords can ignore SEAL and are immune to any cajoling. Whereas the majority of landlords do behave responsibly and provide a good service, it is those who prefer the shortest route to a quick buck that need sorting out – and SEAL cannot do that.

    I do not see how licensing hurts the good guys. It was not me who suggested the £500 fee, although that could amount to as little as £2 a week if it was to be a five year licence.

    However, I agree that Southend council does need to address ‘poor low grade housing’ – I wonder how we do that though – surely licensing was an answer?

    Do not mistake me for a basher of landlords. I represent the ward with the highest percentage of people who rent and have a keen interest in protecting all of them.

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