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Oldham "going further than the rest" to change the rental market

New plans to clamp down on poor housing and rogue landlords will be put into action in Oldham.

An extended selective licensing scheme will allow the local authority to hold those renting out homes to higher standards. 

Councillors intend to build on a scheme launched in July 2022, which they say has shown signs of success. 

At a meeting to discuss the plans, councillor Elayne Taylor said: “The selective licence scheme has been an extremely good thing. It’s really important for our residents to have high quality housing. 

“If I wouldn’t want to live in that house, I don’t see why our residents should have to settle.”

A selective licensing scheme requires landlords in certain areas to apply for a licence to rent their properties, which includes checks on conditions and fairness of rental agreements.

Currently, 1,800 homes are subject to the licences, with the scheme limited to a small number of designated areas in Medlock Vale, St Marys, Werneth, Waterhead, Alexandra, Chadderton South and Hollinwood.

With new housing powers devolved from government, the town hall now wants to extend that area to cover 40 per cent of the borough, up from 20 pc. If approved, it make it the biggest scheme of its kind in Greater Manchester. 

Councillors at the meeting argued the licensing was necessary after the recent surge in the private rental sector. Private renting has risen from four pc to 18 pc in Oldham in the last decade. 

Despite the urgent need for housing across Greater Manchester and beyond, the borough is struggling to attract long-term tenants. These ‘low housing demand’ zones are likely linked to poor housing management and anti-social behaviour, according to a council report. 

“We want to see more long-term tenants,” Coun Taylor said “We want to create stable communities, where people are invested in the area.” 

If carried out, the project will hit a greater number of landlords, who will have to cough up the £580 licensing fee or risk facing a maximum fine of up to £30,000.

Coun Kamran Ghafoor questioned the wisdom of a heavy-handed approach with landlords, who he would be likely to pass on the costs. 

He said: “Rent has become quite high in Oldham – £700 to £800 for a two bedroom house where it used to be 400. 

“I think the landlords are probably doing it because of the selective licensing. Charging the landlords £580 – is that wise when they’ll probably pass it on to tenants?” 

Officers said the rise in prices was more closely linked to the inflation rates and that the benefits outweighed the costs. 

The new licensing gives the council the power to perform random spot checks on properties.

Previous consultations saw a number of tenants and landlords express scepticism about the council’s ability to enforce the new licensing, a worry compounded by the council’s struggle last year to hire staff to take on the responsibility. 

So far, just shy of 670 applications have been submitted, more than 470 full licences have been issued and 264 inspections have been made. The council has also sent out around 200 warning letters. 

Phase two of the program is only in early stages. The local authority has just been awarded £75,000 by the GMCA to complete the analysis and obligatory consultation period for the extension of the licensing scheme. In consultation with the mayor for Greater Manchester, they are hoping to see the second part of the scheme rolled out by the first quarter of 2025.

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