As reported in HIP 162 (Selective Licensing: Ministry Delays Renewal), the system of landlord licensing which Hastings Borough Council has operated in a number of wards of the town over the past five years to control private lettings will expire on 24th October.  Its renewal is being opposed by Hastings & Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart, who wrote to the council last week stating that she believes it pushes up rents for tenants and penalises good landlords “while rogue ones carry on as normal”.   

Renewal is subject to the approval of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). After consultation with “local stakeholders” before the March lockdown this year, council officers came up with a slightly modified scheme and applied in April. They assumed that the Ministry’s delay in responding was caused by COVID-19 distractions, and, as is common when there is a bureaucratic blockage within government departments, the local MP Sally-Ann Hart was then requested to intervene.  But, according to Cllr Andy Batsford, lead councillor for housing and homelessness, she did not merely fail to persuade the Ministry to get on with it. He told the full council meeting on 21st  October: “The thing we’ve got here is somebody blocking the signing of this policy, and I am afraid to say that last week I was told it was our local MP Sally-Ann Hart”.

Council communications office issued a dignified statement last week that “the MHCLG have not completed their assessment of the council’s application and it has not yet been passed to the secretary of state for confirmation.

“Similar to many other local authorities across the country Hastings Borough Council believe Selective Licensing is an important tool in the regulation of the rapidly growing private rented sector; without a new licensing scheme we will lose a number of powers to protect vulnerable tenants and prevent rogue landlords moving into and operating in the town.”

Cllr Batsford is less temperate. “Sally Ann Hart is choosing to turn her back on all those who rent in Hastings. I don’t believe she has even read or understands the policy. The dismantling of this scheme will see the return of slum landlords and Grenfell-style deaths, it’s that serious.”

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