City council says it's not keen on letting agency plan

City councillor Sam Hollick

City councillor Sam Hollick

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

OXFORD City Council rejected the idea of setting up its own letting agency in a bid to improve the quality of private rented accommodation.

Council officers looked into the issue after city councillor Sam Hollick, a member of the authority’s housing panel, proposed it to drive up the standard of properties available in Oxford.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail Mr Hollick, a Green councillor for Holywell, said: “I think the standard of private-rented housing very much depends on who your landlord is and generally there is a culture that landlords see renting as an investment rather than providing a service.

“It would be a way of driving up standards and leading by example.”

But after exploring the proposal the city council has decided not to go ahead with the scheme and submitted a report explaining why to the housing panel of the authority’s scrutiny committee.

One of the reasons officers gave for not pursuing the plan was because it would undermine the availability of properties available through its scheme used to allocate social housing.

In the report Dave Scholes, the city council’s housing strategy and needs manager, said that to drive up property standards Oxford City Council was the first council in the UK to adopt additional licensing powers for all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in its area.

Additionally the environmental development service had funding to be active in inspecting rented properties in the non-HMO sector.

Housing authorities were also working together to tackle poor standards in illegal dwellings and plans were in place to review further measures in 2014 which could improve regulation of the private-rented sector, he said.

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Compulsory licensing of all HMOs was introduced by the city council in 2012 which means that anyone renting a property to groups of three or more students or professionals must be licenced, have regular inspections and pay a fee of at least £362.

Frank Webster, a director of letting agency Finders Keepers, said the city council already had powers to put landlords on notice should a property require improvements and so he did not see “much point” in it becoming a letting agency.

He said: “I don’t think Oxford has a massive problem, but we are all for seeing higher standards in the sector and we would urge the city council to work with us.”

A local letting agent approach has been used by other councils – such as Hackney – to improve the access to the private rented sector for customers who might otherwise be made homeless.

Essentially it would mean the council setting itself up as a letting agent; in some cases it has involved setting up a high street property shop with its own branding.

However, councils cannot use public funds to give themselves an unfair advantage as it contravenes competition rules.

Comments (6)

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2:37pm Wed 22 Jan 14

TiarasOceanView says...

Nice try Sam. Sorry you were shot down. But I do see that paying a huge fee to a letting agency may put off most landlords, good and bad.
Nice try Sam. Sorry you were shot down. But I do see that paying a huge fee to a letting agency may put off most landlords, good and bad. TiarasOceanView
  • Score: -233

5:26pm Wed 22 Jan 14

Interestedinoxford says...

Oxford City Council hardly endeared itself to landlords by imposing Council Tax on any void periods between lets when responsible landlords carry out repairs and redecoration.
Oxford City Council hardly endeared itself to landlords by imposing Council Tax on any void periods between lets when responsible landlords carry out repairs and redecoration. Interestedinoxford
  • Score: 28

5:52pm Wed 22 Jan 14

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

The council is already a sort of letting agency by advertising for private landlords to provide properties for local families on housing benefit. You may have seem their adverts on signboards stuck up around Oxford recently. Sadly the rates paid by housing benefit are about 30% below the market level for private rents unless the property is in a mess or a poor location, so I didn't seriously consider the scheme.
The council is already a sort of letting agency by advertising for private landlords to provide properties for local families on housing benefit. You may have seem their adverts on signboards stuck up around Oxford recently. Sadly the rates paid by housing benefit are about 30% below the market level for private rents unless the property is in a mess or a poor location, so I didn't seriously consider the scheme. Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: -63

9:01pm Wed 22 Jan 14

mytaxes says...

Why can't the council stick to providing basic services and reduce our council tax? Many are struggling to pay rent/mortgage and council tax yet our council increases it at every opportunity. Councillors are out canvassing for votes already ask them how much more they expect us to pay this year.
Why can't the council stick to providing basic services and reduce our council tax? Many are struggling to pay rent/mortgage and council tax yet our council increases it at every opportunity. Councillors are out canvassing for votes already ask them how much more they expect us to pay this year. mytaxes
  • Score: -93

7:35am Thu 23 Jan 14

King Joke says...

I would have thought ensuring families have a roof over their head was a basic service, and one they all used to provide before the great sell-off.

It's interesting Finders Keepers were consulted, given their business model is built largely on withholding tenant deposit.
I would have thought ensuring families have a roof over their head was a basic service, and one they all used to provide before the great sell-off. It's interesting Finders Keepers were consulted, given their business model is built largely on withholding tenant deposit. King Joke
  • Score: 28

6:24pm Thu 23 Jan 14

jockox3 says...

Suggested something similar 12 years ago when I was on the council too. Actually mine was more for the council encouraging a members’ cooperative of tenants, landlords, advice and support services that would, amongst other things, act as a lettings agent.
Suggested something similar 12 years ago when I was on the council too. Actually mine was more for the council encouraging a members’ cooperative of tenants, landlords, advice and support services that would, amongst other things, act as a lettings agent. jockox3
  • Score: -93

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