Forum calls for action ‘now’ to protect tenants

ACTION is needed now to protect renters, the chairman of the Jersey Tenants’ Forum has said, after a landlord licensing proposal was pushed back.

Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31007182)
Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31007182)

Stuart Langhorn said that the introduction of a licence scheme for landlords would ‘protect some of the most vulnerable in our island community’.

Environment Minister John Young said postponing the debate regarding the scheme would give time to ‘respond properly’ to new issues raised, ‘particularly on the complexities of charging for licences’.

He said it had been delayed when ‘unexpected new comments’ were lodged by the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel last week.

The proposition, which was initially due to be debated by the States Assembly during this week’s sitting, would require landlords to ‘license a dwelling for the purpose of rental accommodation’, with landlords unable to rent out a property unless it was licensed. The minister described it as a ‘lighter touch’ scheme than previously proposed and narrowly defeated in the States in 2020. It is now expected the latest proposition will be debated at the States sitting on 20 July.

Deputy Young said the new issues identified had ‘potential important effects on the future funding of environmental health services’. No charges were identified for licences in his proposal.

The Scrutiny Panel has said it cannot support the proposition in its current form. In its report, it stated that concerns raised in a previous review remained, including those ‘in relation to the licensing scheme fee structure going forward, the potential administrative and cost impacts on landlords and the consequential impacts on tenants’.

There was also ‘uncertainty’ around the income a scheme would generate, and the operational cost incurred by the government.

The panel said it had approached the Jersey Tenants’ Forum for comment but had not received a response.

Mr Langhorn said the forum had not taken part in the latest Scrutiny hearing because it did ‘not have much faith’ in the panel. However, he said that the minister’s proposal should not have been delayed.

He said: ‘We do not have much faith they have given any credence to what the Tenants’ Forum had to say.’ He added that the States were ‘dominated by the interests of private landlords’.

Mr Langhorn called for ‘action now’, labelling the action plan for housing unveiled by Housing Minister Russell Labey last week as ‘nothing but empty words on a piece of paper’. One of the aims of the plan is to provide greater protection for tenants.

The Jersey Landlords’ Association does not support Deputy Young’s proposal. It says it is ‘sceptical’ that no fees would be charged for a licence and is concerned over the red tape involved. It also says legislation already exists to combat sub-standard rental properties.

A separate debate on a landlord licensing scheme lodged by Deputy Rob Ward is still expected this week. Debates on States Members’ remuneration, a permanent headquarters for the Jersey Sea Cadets and the housing affordability crisis are also due to take place.

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