Landlord Emma Paul told a Scrutiny panel that property owners faced being ‘held to ransom’ if changes were introduced and warned that the costs would, inevitably, be passed on to tenants.
Proposals are being considered to make landlords sign up to a register with an annual fee of £200 that would also see their properties inspected once a year. These proposals have attracted a strong backlash from landlords and the Jersey Landlords Association, which yesterday spoke to the Environment, Infrastructure and Housing Scrutiny Panel.
Ms Paul told the panel that changes would drive up rent prices and cause landlords to sell-up and force tenants into ‘unregistered, unregulated room rentals’.
She said: ‘There is the £200 extra charge, which isn’t just £200. It would mean an electrical inspection that is currently needed every five years would be needed every time there is a new tenant.
‘I’ve had electrical checks done and some have charged up to £1,200. Some of that is optional, but what I am saying is that landlords will be held to ransom.
‘These costs will be passed on to tenants, and we are at the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t seen anything about rents going up yet, but they will go up. It is more relentless intervention from the government and people are leaving and will leave the industry. People have come to me saying they need somewhere to rent because their building is being sold.’
Last year, a 97-year-old landlord was fined £28,000 after two of his properties were found to be operating as boarding houses which lacked basic fire-prevention measures. Alfred Samuel John de Gruchy, his company Continental Developments, and his daughter Veronica Scott (69), who did administrative work for the business, admitted two charges each of failing to have the correct fire certificates in place for the respective properties.
The offences related to two houses in the First Tower area which had been leased as private single dwellings but converted to multiple-occupancy residences housing 12 people – which the landlords claimed was done without their knowledge.
All the bedrooms were padlocked and officers found unsafe electrical cables running through the house, wires carpet-taped and many electrical adaptors being used for three-pin sockets.
‘These posed a hazard because of a higher risk of mechanical failure which can lead to sparking,’ Crown Advocate Yates said in court.
In 2018, 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. In an effort to identify all rental properties in the Island and ensure that they were meeting the minimum standards, a licensing scheme was then proposed.
If the new proposals are introduced, 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.
The proposals are due to go before the States Assembly in February and if passed they would be enforced in July.
The Scrutiny Panel was told yesterday that around around 20 landlords had left the industry in the past year and politicians were warned of further departures.
Deputy Kirsten Morel, who sits on the panel, stated that the charges would amount to about £4 a week, which he said wasn’t a lot in the overall picture.
Robert Weston, honorary president of the Jersey Landlords’ Association, added: ‘It is a huge body of red tape. It is unnecessary. It is a taxation, a stealth taxation.’