Last year, laws were introduced to raise the minimum standards of dwellings after the Environmental Health Department reported continued complaints of dirty, unsafe and squalid properties being leased in Jersey’s private rental market. Now, in an effort to identify all rental properties in Jersey and ensure that they are meeting the minimum standards, a licensing scheme has been proposed.
If the new proposals are passed later this year, all landlords currently renting out properties to tenants would be required to obtain a licence, with their premises being subject to retrospective inspections by Environmental Health.
And from next January, any landlords who are newly letting out properties would need to meet minimum standards before receiving a licence.
A consultation on the proposals is being launched today (Friday).
To fund the scheme an annual licence fee is being planned, which would be discounted for properties that have already received accreditation on the States’ Rent Safe scheme.
Stewart Petrie, a consultant in the Environmental Health Department, said that the proposals would effectively mean the creation of a register of landlords in Jersey.
He added that all rental properties would need to be licensed, with the exception of people taking lodgers into their home.
‘There are plenty of good landlords out there but we deal with complaints and what we see all the time are these very grotty properties,’ he said.
‘There are beds-in-sheds that are being rented out at the moment. It comes down to market forces – there isn’t enough supply to meet demand in Jersey and when that happens standards fall.’
He added: ‘We don’t know who all of the landlords are in Jersey at the moment but this, if passed, would enable that.
‘To keep a licence, a property would be required to meet the minimum standards under the legislation that was passed last year and these standards are pretty basic – it’s not asking much.
‘Some people will say that the cost of the licences will just be passed on to the tenants. Well, if someone is already accredited under the Rent Safe scheme then the licence fee could be just £50 per year. So that works out to £1 per week.
‘Even if that is passed on to tenants I think they would be happy to pay that for the reassurance that their property is kept in good order.’
Mr Petrie said that landlords could face prosecution and a fine if they do not obtain licences or fail to keep their properties up to minimum standards, but his department would take a ‘light touch’ approach to enforcement until further action was necessary.
He added that so far more than 2,000 properties had been registered under the Rent Safe scheme, which was launched two years ago and established an online list of landlords and properties on gov.je.
Under Rent Safe, landlords receive a three- to five-star rating if their properties meet or exceed minimum standards.
The Jersey Landlords’ Association was contacted for comment.