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Is Liverpool's private landlord licence scheme flawed?

Is Liverpool's private landlord licence scheme flawed?
A compulsory licence for landlords aimed at improving Liverpool's private rented housing has been panned by a local landlord in the city for apparently containing a number of flaws in the licensing application form.

The licence, which covers around 50,000 lets in Liverpool, was introduced last year requiring private landlords to hold a licence.

The initiative, introduced by Liverpool City Council, is one of the largest in the country and is designed to help protect tenants.

Applicants for the five-year licence are checked to see if they are a fit and proper person, while those without a licence risk being fined up to £5,000.

But many landlords have opposed the scheme, with the National Landlords Association (NLA) previously describing it as a "heavy-handed" system that is "alienating" to landlords.

Now a local NLA member has apparently uncovered numerous flaws in the Council's licensing application form.

Larry Sweeney, a landlord based in Southport, has raised a number of concerns about Liverpool City Council's approach to selective licensing with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which has responded with their assessment of the Council's compliance with data protection legislation.

On this particular occasion, the ICO, which seeks to review activity and improve compliance, has stated its opinion that Liverpool City Council has failed to comply with the Data Protection Act by asking for information which it cannot demonstrate that it needs, namely, by insisting that landlords authorise it to (a) obtain Disclosures and Barring Service (DBS) information and/or (b) approach other services as may be necessary for information pertaining to an application for a licence. The implication of this is that failure to provide such an authority will prevent the processing of the licensing application.

As it is unlikely that this kind of information would be needed to satisfy the conditions of a licensing application in most cases, and the Council has confirmed that failure would not prohibit the processing of an application, the ICO considers requiring it excessive and unnecessary.

The ICO has confirmed its position that organisations should only seek consent to perform checks of this nature if and when they are to be carried out, and as a consequence the Council could be found in breach of the Data Protection Act.

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