Rental licensing scheme planned to root out sub-standard accommodation in Jersey

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THE government plans to introduce a licensing regime for all rental properties to root out sub-standard accommodation in Jersey.

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said he would be lodging a proposition in the new year, asking States Members to back his plans.

The previous Assembly debated several propositions relating to the regulation of private rented dwellings, including attempts to introduce a licensing system. The most recent of those, in July 2021, was defeated by just a single vote.

Deputy Renouf said his proposal would aim to ensure that minimum standards were adhered to and that tenants and their families were living in safe homes.

Under such a scheme, each rented dwelling would require a licence, with government officers able to withhold or withdraw a licence if a property was deemed to be unsafe.

Deputy Renouf said: ‘We have a significant problem with unsafe and squalid private rented dwellings in Jersey and we simply cannot stand by and allow that to continue.

‘Poor-quality housing has knock-on effects in terms of physical and mental health, educational attainment and general life chances and opportunities.’

Deputy Renouf added that he had had a ‘very reasonable and positive’ discussions with the Jersey Landlords’ Association on his plans and he was confident that the reasons why previous attempts to introduce licensing had failed had been addressed.

He added: ‘As minister, I have the legal duty to improve private rental dwellings. I have three options before me: do nothing, introduce a rental property registration scheme, or introduce licensing.

‘The advantage of the latter is that it allows me to remove a licence without the need to prosecute. It is a sensitive tool to deal with potential breaches of safety, while prosecution through the courts is, in this case, more of a blunt tool.

‘Licensing also gives a landlord the possibility of continuing to rent while they make the necessary improvements.

‘Critically, we already have the officers in place to enforce the standards. We need to be proactive because tenants are often reluctant to make a formal complaint for fear of losing their accommodation.

‘It is important to say that there will be no more people employed and the new regime comes at no extra cost.’

Concern over extra costs – including the possible introduction of a licence fee, which could be passed on to tenants – was one of the reasons why Members rejected previous attempts to start licensing rented homes.

On the issue of fees, he said the charge to landlords would be in the region of £30 a year.

Deputy Renouf added: ‘I hope to continue with positive discussions with the JLA and other stakeholders to refine the proposition further. My whole approach has been conciliatory, but the key issue is that we have significant issues with the quality of private rented dwellings in Jersey, and we need to address that.’

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