After years of frustrations from landlords, tenants, Local Authorities and their wider communities, underlined by poor perceptions and poor delivery of landlord licensing, be it Selective or Additional, I have developed an innovative and progressive approach that will see real, lasting and meaningful change. I apologise in advance for the self promotion in this article but after discussing this with the team at simple, we all felt it was a story worth telling!
‘The Home Safe Scheme’ concept was created to provide support, guidance and protection to Landlords affected by the introduction of Selective Licensing, enabling Local Authority’s to maximise the outcomes of any Selective Licensing scheme, whilst providing both benefits and support to their landlord community. Our Directors have both public sector, Local Authority and private sector landlord experience, myself and one other Director have additional experience as the former representatives of the National Landlords Association, so we are perfectly placed to take the licensing concept to a whole new level.
We are the originators of this approach, developing the concept with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council through 2014 and are currently working in partnership with 3 Local Authorities on 5 schemes covering designations in Doncaster, West Lindsey and Great Yarmouth. This is a new way of thinking and delivering of licensing that is based on the premise that all parties accept that there is a problem and that existing solutions, in isolation are not yielding the desired results.
We provide support and development to engaging landlords whilst working with the licensing and enforcing Local Authorities who can then focus their efforts on the more non-engaging and non-compliant landlords. Working in partnership with Local Authorities and private landlords to raise standards in the private rented sector, improving communities, improving tenant experience, saving tax-payers money and protecting private investment. We do what we do best and Local Authorities do what they do best.
Once a designation is confirmed landlords can either apply for a licence direct with the Local Authority at the full cost, typically between £500 - £800 or they can apply to be a member of Home Safe and then acquire their licence from the Local Authority at a heavily discount rate, typically between £75 - £100 . If they choose the Home Safe route, they will need to set up a Direct Debit and pay a monthly membership subscription with the intention that over 5 years they will pay little or no more by following this route. Membership terms and conditions apply and many commercial benefits such as B & Q discount, are made available to the members in an attempt to make licensing a cost neutral experience.
Once a member of the scheme, and in receipt of their Local Authority issued licence, any matters regarding the property, landlord or tenant, are referred in the first instance to Home Safe who will work with the licence-holder, the member, to resolve the issue. This leaves the Local Authority free to focus on the more non-engaging, non-compliant part of the sector where enforcement action can be more efficiently focused and in a more effective way.
Home Safe will conduct an agreed number of property inspections for the duration of the designation by deploying a team of trained HHSRS inspectors to inspect all scheme properties. Inspection reports are emailed to scheme members upon completion of the inspection. Home Safe agree a plan of action with the licence-holder/scheme member and issue timely reminders for satisfactory completion of any remedial works with evidence required for the more serious issues.
The major benefits are that once landlords have joined Home Safe and obtained their licence, at a reduced cost, they will get the opportunity to pay monthly instalments, as opposed to a one-off up-front cost to the Council. This will spread their costs over the licence period, helping with their cashflow. We are also able to offer advice, support and development to those landlords that request it, something that financially stretched Local Authorities cannot do.
As we keep evolving the concept, we are adding new support functions and benefits for our members and we are about to launch the Home Safe training academy later this year, providing a range of industry specific training courses. Later in the year we also hope to launch our new ‘Approved contractor scheme’ which will provide a unique approach enabling landlords to secure quality tradesman, at fair prices, when they need them the most!
If you are in a Local Authority area that is considering introducing Selective or Additional licensing then please feel free get in touch or bring our approach to their attention. More information can be found at the Home Safe website at www. thehomesafescheme.org.uk