March 5, 2024 10:18 am

Insert Lead Generation
Nikka Sulton

Brian Fish, a landlord hailing from Seaham in County Durham, has made the decision to step away from the private rental sector following a contentious interaction with Durham County Council. The crux of the matter lies in the inclusion of Fish’s two properties in the council’s Selective Licensing Scheme, a move that he staunchly opposes. Asserting that his properties, alongside numerous others, shouldn’t fall under the purview of the scheme, Fish has taken the matter to his Member of Parliament, urging a closer examination of the council’s methodology.

The dispute underscores a broader issue regarding the criteria for properties being encompassed within selective licensing initiatives. Fish’s case raises questions about the fairness and accuracy of the council’s selection process, prompting him to seek external intervention to address what he perceives as an unjust inclusion of his rental units. This incident highlights the challenges landlords face when navigating regulatory frameworks and the significant impact such decisions can have on their involvement in the rental sector.

Durham County Council’s handling of selective licensing is now under scrutiny as Fish’s case gains attention. The landlord’s decision to exit the rental sector serves as a tangible consequence of the perceived discrepancies in the council’s approach. This situation also underscores the need for a transparent and fair methodology in the implementation of licensing schemes, ensuring that landlords are not unduly burdened and can operate within a regulatory framework that accurately reflects the nature of their rental properties.

Fish emphasizes, “The selective licensing scheme seems to have cast a wide net, encompassing 30,000 houses in County Durham, despite the original plan targeting a more extensive 60,000 houses. The financial burden imposed on landlords, demanding £500 per property to DCC, amounts to a significant £15 million, a substantial sum borne by private landlords and potentially impacting the most vulnerable segments of the population.”

While Fish acknowledges the importance of such schemes in appropriate contexts, he provides insight, stating, “The Housing Act establishes a primary benchmark necessitating 19% or more of Private Landlords in affected areas. Additionally, the presence of high levels of secondary issues, such as Anti-Social Behaviour, Low Housing Demand, and High Levels of Deprivation, could indicate the relevance of the Private Landlord Sector. We comprehend the significance of these factors.” Fish has taken a proactive stance by involving his MP to scrutinize the council’s methodology, raising questions about the scheme’s inclusivity and potential impact on the private rental sector.

He asserts that while the Act serves a purpose in areas meeting the necessary criteria, in Durham, it has transformed into what he deems a “£15 million revenue scheme for Durham County Council.” Fish challenges the council’s methodology for determining the inclusion of specific properties and areas in the scheme, contending that the baseline is flawed.

Through Freedom of Information requests and extensive communication with the council, Fish maintains that, based on the gathered information over the two-year existence of the scheme, many areas should never have been subjected to its implementation. Consequently, he is raising concerns with local court authorities regarding multiple cases against landlords initiated by DCC using delegated powers. These cases, as Fish alleges, seem to be grounded in faulty data. It’s worth noting that Fish, having divested himself of his two properties in recent months, is not personally involved in any legal actions.

He draws a comparison to the sub-postmasters’ scandal, highlighting the potential fallibility of computer algorithms. His primary concern lies with vulnerable tenants, projecting them as the long-term victims of landlords exiting the market, causing housing shortages and escalating rents in affected areas.

Seeking resolution, he has enlisted the support of local Labour MP Grahame Morris, who, despite endorsing selective licensing, has requested details from the council about the scheme. Morris seeks clarification on the algorithm’s intricacies for property inclusion, along with the key performance indicators determining properties’ eligibility.

Responding to queries, Durham County Council contests some specifics of Fish’s assertions, refuting the notion that the scheme serves as a revenue-generating mechanism

Disputing Fish’s claims, the council asserts that all funds are ring-fenced for scheme-related expenditures, primarily staffing for license administration and enforcement. The council contends that the scheme’s projected revenue won’t exceed £12.5 million and emphasizes its purpose to hold landlords accountable for inadequate living standards.

The scheme received approval from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, satisfied with the criteria determining property inclusion/exclusion. The council cites disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic during the original consultation but asserts fulfillment of all statutory requirements in advertising details through various channels.

Lynn Hall, strategic manager for housing, describes the scheme’s creation as an exhaustive process with changes based on formal consultation feedback. She highlights government approval, stating adherence to legislation and guidance. In response, Brian Fish explores legal options, contemplating a potential class action against the council.



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