Landlords in the States vote down rental licence scheme

PLANS to bring in a licensing scheme for rented properties have been rejected by States Members by a single vote.

Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31326232)
Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31326232)

The proposed licensing scheme, which was brought to the Assembly by Environment Minister John Young, was defeated by 23 votes to 22.

The majority of the 23 politicians who voted down the proposal were landlords, with 14 (60%) declaring an interest earlier on in the sitting.

Yesterday’s proposition followed a previous vote by the Assembly in favour of introducing minimum standards for rental dwellings.

Having taken into account the views of other Members and landlords, Deputy Young said the proposed licensing scheme had been designed to be as simple as possible, would not impose any licensing fees and or introduce a mass regime of inspections.

There was no question that licensing was needed, Deputy Young said, adding: ‘There are still properties that are not meeting minimum standards and the unequivocal advice I have been given is that in order to achieve higher standards, this scheme will enable more effective implementation and compliance.

‘I don’t believe the scheme does have any element of “Big Brother” or is in any way a threat to anyone.’

Constable Mike Jackson said ‘the devil was in the detail’ and that although the Environment Minister had pledged not to introduce fees ‘on his watch’, he was being ‘horribly naïve’ if he thought that fees would not be introduced by a future government.

Mr Jackson’s contribution was criticised as ‘illegitimate’ by Senator Sam Mézec, a former Housing Minister, who said it was time to ‘stop going round in circles’ and back a scheme which would have only positive effects on everyone except bad landlords.

Following the vote, Senator Mézec said the States had ‘shamefully and disgustingly U-turned’ on its previous decision, and put ‘wealth for the few ahead of health and safety for the many’.

At the sitting, Deputy Kirsten Morel and Constable Simon Crowcroft were both concerned by the rising amount of bureaucracy that would result from the scheme, but their view was described as a ‘smokescreen’ by Deputy Rob Ward.

Deputy Ward said: ‘To vote against this proposition is to accept substandard housing – Members are elected to have people’s interests at heart, not their own self-interest.’

Summing up, the Environment Minister said that there had been significant lobbying from landlords – Deputy Rowland Huelin, the assistant chief minister who is a political consultant to the Jersey Landlords Association, had ‘led the charge’ in this respect, Deputy Young added.

- Pour: Senators Vallois, Mézec and Pallett; Constables Crowcroft*, Jéhan, Mezbourian, Shenton-Stone and Le Bailly*; Deputies R Labey, Young*, Tadier*, Wickenden, Higgins, Ward, Martin, Alves, Pamplin, Gardiner*, Southern, Renouf, Lewis and Pointon (22).

- Contre: Senators Farnham, Le Fondré*, Ferguson, Gorst* and Moore*; Constables Le Maistre*, Buchanan*, Jackson, Le Sueur and Le Sueur-Rennard; Deputies Le Hegarat, Guida*, Ahier, Pinel*, Truscott*, Huelin*, Johnson*, Luce*, Raymond*, Morel*, Ash, C Labey* and Maçon (23).

Those Members marked * declared an interest as landlords at the start of the debate.

A total of 20 members made this declaration, of whom five voted ‘pour’ and 14 ‘contre’. Constable Vibert of St Peter was not present for the vote.

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