Bad landlords: Is a helpline a better option?

A FORMER Bailiff and Senator has suggested a confidential helpline be made available for people to report substandard rental properties.

Sir Philip Bailhache  Picture: PETER MOURANT. (27145302)
Sir Philip Bailhache Picture: PETER MOURANT. (27145302)

Sir Philip Bailhache, a former External Relations Minister, has raised the idea ahead of a States Assembly debate later this month on a proposed new licensing scheme for private rental dwellings.

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. The proposals have attracted a strong backlash from landlords and the Jersey Landlords Association.

One landlord warned the Environment, Infrastructure and Housing Scrutiny Panel that changes could drive up rent prices and cause landlords to sell-up and force tenants into ‘unregistered, unregulated room rentals’.

Sir Philip, who has declared an interest as a landlord himself, criticises the ‘bureaucratic’ plans to make landlords pay annual fees in a letter to the JEP, published today.

‘These regulations would require more civil servants and would add bureaucratic red tape to the housing market for no useful purpose,’ he said.

‘Why should good landlords have to pay the cost of requiring bad landlords to meet minimum standards?

‘It costs money to be a good landlord by paying for repairs and renovations and responding to tenants’ reasonable requests – why should good landlords have to pay twice?’

Having a facility where tenants who felt exploited could report their concerns anonymously would, Sir Philip argues, be cheaper and much more effective.

‘The [Environmental Health] department already has wide legal powers entitling it to investigate, to enter property at 24 hours’ notice, and to require remedial action to be taken at the expense of the landlord – why not use those powers?’ he said.

Sir Philip said it was unrealistic to expect that landlords who were renting out substandard flats and houses would disclose the faults in their dwellings. And he called on the government to take firm action against landlords whose properties failed to meet minimum standards by issuing enforcement notices.

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, the licensing scheme was then proposed. Its establishment is due to be debated on 25 February.

lLetters: Page 12.

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