Forcing landlords to buy licences won't make their tenants better-behaved

Councils forcing private landlords to buy a £500 licence say it will make antisocial tenants behave better. The accidental landlord disagree
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£310 a week: a bright and airy one-bedroom flat on Inkerman Road in Kentish Town, NW5.

How can a local council make an extra £15 million or so? Simple. By introducing compulsory licensing for private residential landlords.

That's roughly how much Newham has raised since the east London borough became the first in the capital to make the move last year. Now Enfield, in north London, wants to do the same from next April. If it goes ahead, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of other councils follow suit, eventually. After all, it's easy money, isn't it? On the plus side for amateur landlords who might be clueless about letting property, licensing should make them aware of obligations they might otherwise overlook, thereby ensuring they don't accidentally break the law. On the downside, these schemes are costly, especially for "accidental" landlords who only intend to let a place for a short time. And if councils or residents think they will get rid of rogue landlords and unruly tenants, they're living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

As it voted in favour of compulsory licensing for landlords last month, Enfield said the main improvement it was seeking was a reduction in antisocial behaviour. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but the council thinks that if a landlord has a licence their tenants will be better-behaved? It's a piece of paper, not fairy dust. Enfield said it "has a clear ambition that its growing private rented sector should not be associated with antisocial behaviour, but be a positive force in the borough — providing homes and contributing to cohesive neighbourhoods and sense of place".

It seems to be suggesting that tenants who rent from private landlords are worse-behaved than home owners, or those in council properties. All I can say is there must be something funny in the water in north London if the voters of Enfield believe that tosh. I have had dozens of tenants and never received a complaint of any antisocial behaviour, but I live next door to a council-owned property which has been raided by the police more than once and the present tenants have devised a time-saving method of disposing of dirty nappies, which is simply to throw them out of the bedroom window.

Now, before you send me hate mail, I am not suggesting council tenants are worse than private renters. I have lived on a south London council estate and the other tenants, mostly in council properties, were charming, especially Earl who wanted to make me his "b***h". I am saying I can't believe Enfield's problem with antisocial behaviour is the fault of private landlords, or that a licensing scheme is needed to eradicate it.

Councils already have all the powers they need to deal with slumlords and with antisocial residents, so why don't they get on and do it? A lack of cash, that's why. So these councils have come up with a cunning plan to force the many decent landlords to foot the bill for flushing out the rogue ones and for dealing with antisocial residents, whether they are private renters, home owners or council tenants. Newham says it has received more than 30,000 licence applications since introducing its borough-wide scheme last year, so given that it charges £500 for each one, it must have raised more than £15 million. Enfield will also charge £500 for a five-year licence — with a 50 per cent discount for early applicants — and has 27,500 privately rented properties in the borough.

Kerching, kerching.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock 

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