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Bristol Landlords Challenge New Licensing Fees Imposed by Labour Council

In Bristol, a new dispute has erupted over the Labour council’s decision to extend its licensing scheme to additional parts of the city, with fees reaching up to £1,800 per House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license. This move has sparked significant backlash from the landlord community.

The Bristol Post has reported that despite the council’s decision to proceed with the scheme’s expansion, the consultation process revealed considerable opposition from landlords. The proposed licensing fees are set at approximately £1,800 for HMOs, with potential discounts for those holding relevant safety and energy performance certificates. Licenses for other privately rented properties in selected wards will be priced at £912, again with discount opportunities.

The consultation attracted diverse feedback, with 40% of respondents opposing the scheme and just over half in agreement. Among the critics was the rental accreditation service Safeagent, which voiced its concerns over the scheme’s financial implications. “Given that the local authority is not permitted to make a profit from any licensing scheme, the fee seems disproportionate to the cost,” Safeagent highlighted, fearing that conscientious landlords might be unfairly penalized to fund the council’s enforcement standards.

Grainger, a major corporate landlord, also weighed in, noting the minimal enforcement action seen across various licensing schemes they’re subject to. They emphasized the financial burden these fees impose, potentially affecting project viability and leading to increased rents for tenants.

Councillor Kye Dudd, overseeing Bristol’s housing services, defended the decision, framing it as a fulfillment of their manifesto promise to expand landlord licensing in Bristol. “Our administration believes that having a safe and secure roof over your head is key… This is a tool that will help us improve the quality and management of private rented properties,” Dudd stated, countering claims that the scheme is merely a revenue-raising effort.

The council’s approach aligns with Mayor Marvin Rees’s long-standing advocacy for rent control powers over the private sector. Following a referendum that voted to abolish the Mayor’s position, Rees has announced his intention to pursue a role as an MP, further solidifying his commitment to housing reform.

This development represents a growing tension between local authorities and landlords, underscoring the challenges of balancing housing quality improvements with the financial realities of property management.