Scrutiny comments on proposed Licensing Regulations for Rented Dwellings
27th October 2023
Today the Environment, Housing & Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel ('the Panel') published comments on the Draft Public Health and Safety (Rented Dwellings) (Licensing) (Jersey) Regulations 202- [P.40/2023]. The Regulations were debated in the first reading by the States Assembly on 18th July 2023, with the principles adopted. Owing to concerns raised by key stakeholders, the proposition was referred to the Panel for further scrutiny.
Under the proposed regulations, each individual rented dwelling would require a licence. The fee for this would be £60 per property for a two-year licence period.
The Panel gathered evidence from a range of key stakeholders to help inform its review, and engaged the consultancy services of Justice for Tenants UK. Having considered both the benefits and challenges of licensing, the Panel has identified several key recommendations, in addition to nine proposed amendments to the draft Regulations, to ensure that regulation is both 'light touch' and has the best chance of achieving its intended aims.
Key recommendations by the Panel are:
- The Minister for the Environment should publish a landlord 'toolkit' and code of practice by the end of February 2024 containing guidelines of how the law and proposed regulations will be applied in practice.
- The Minister for the Environment should further explore what existent inspections regimes take place by other accredited bodies in relation to worker accommodation.
- A helpline should be provided by Government to support both tenants and landlords in relation to licensing queries and concerns raised regarding poor rental accommodation conditions.
- The Minister for the Environment should commission a high-level economic impact assessment on the introduction of licensing and the potential impact on the private rental market.
- The Minister for the Environment should ensure that relevant data regarding the value and effectiveness of the licensing regime should be collated and published on a quarterly basis. This data should also be utilised to produce an annual report by Government on the value and effectiveness of the licensing regime.
- The Minister for the Environment should consider the benefits or otherwise of introducing fixed penalty notices for landlords who fail to comply with the law. However, a 'grace period' should also be factored in before penalties and/or prosecution are pursued to allow landlords to become familiar with their obligations.
- The Minister for the Environment should consider publishing the names of landlords who commit an offence under the Public Health and Safety (Rented Dwellings) (Licensing) (Jersey) 2018 Law and/or under any subordinate legislation.
The Panel also proposes 9 amendments, listed as follows:
- Second amendment: inclusion of lodging houses within the draft regulations
- Third amendment: define when a licence application is considered to have been made and additional requirements for application – must be made and signed by dwelling owner
- Fourth amendment: replace the word "may" with "must" in regulation 3(1)
- Fifth amendment: clarify provision for licences to be granted subject to any necessary remedial works being carried out within a defined timeframe
- Sixth amendment: remove condition 2(e) from the schedule of standard licence conditions (regulation 3(5))
- Seventh amendment: remove scope for additional conditions to be placed on licences at the Minister for the Environment's discretion
- Eighth amendment: exemption of licensing fees for social housing providers
- Ninth amendment: initial review by Minister for the Environment and Royal Court appeals process
- Tenth amendment: remove references to "licence holder" and replace with "owner" (and clarify that regulation 2(3) applies to the owner)
The draft Regulations will be debated in second and third reading, along with the Panel's proposed amendments, at the States' sitting commencing 7th November 2023.
Deputy Steve Luce, as Chair of the Panel, said: "There is little question in the Panel's mind that poor conditions in rental properties do exist and that this should be addressed. However, the review set out to answer to what extent the proposed licensing regulations would achieve this without having a detrimental impact on the private rented sector. Although we can't predict with complete certainty whether the private rented sector will be adversely affected or not, we believe the recommendations and amendments we have proposed will help mitigate such a risk. We hope the Minister will take these into consideration prior to the States' debate."
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