MFRS echoes concerns over Landlord Licensing decision

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) has echoed the concerns of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson following a decision to scrap the council’s landlord licensing scheme.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has turned down an application to keep the citywide scheme going for five years from April 2020, despite it having been backed by MFRS, Merseyside Police and a large number of residents.

The Government said the application – put forward by Liverpool City Council – ‘did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city’. This is something both the council and MFRS rejects.

Government approval is needed for schemes which cover more than 20 per cent of a council area, with Liverpool wanting to continue the citywide scheme due to the size and scale of the issue with the private rented sector in the city, which accounts for up to half of housing in some areas and covers 55,000 properties in total.

MFRS works closely with local authorities across Merseyside, including Liverpool City Council, to make sure those living in rented accommodation are safe. The licensing scheme gives greater powers to access properties to carry out inspections and take enforcement action where necessary.

The decision to stop the scheme will severely hamper attempts to drive up standards in the private rental sector and keep vulnerable people safe – particularly in relation to fire safety in rented properties.

Area Manager Gary Oakford said: “We at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service know first-hand the benefits of Liverpool City Council’s licensing scheme, with 70% of properties inspected since 2015 having been found to be in breach of their licence condition. The scheme has allowed both the council and ourselves to uncover serious hazards including fire risks such as poor electrical safety, non-provision of smoke alarms and excess cold, resulting in residents being forced to use inappropriate heating and cooking methods.

“Under the scheme, we’ve seen an increase in smoke alarm installation, less house fires and less fire deaths. The ability to carry out proactive enforcement will be severely diminished as a result of this ruling and that’s why we are backing calls for this decision to be reviewed as soon as possible.”

MFRS carries out more than 60,000 home fire safety checks each year across Merseyside, installing smoke alarms and giving vital safety information to those who need it most. This outstanding prevention activity has resulted in the lowest number of fire deaths since records began.

AM Oakford added: “We work closely with Liverpool City Council to make sure those living in rented accommodation in the city are equally as safe, but this ruling makes it more difficult for us to do so and could ultimately lead to lives being put at risk.”