Local authority trying to determine if owner broke law by not having correct licences

Liverpool city council is investigating a landlord who bought 18 houses on a single street in February to determine whether his firm has broken housing law by renting them out without the correct licences.

The investigation into the licensing of the properties, which were acquired for a combined price of £702,000 eight months ago and are now on the market again, was triggered after a resident complained to the local authority about the standard of her property.

One of the properties visited by journalists as part of an investigation by the Guardian and ITV News was damp and had leaking pipes, rotten woodwork and no upstairs lighting. The tenant, who is six months pregnant, had piled bricks across the base of her back door to try to prevent rats getting in.

Louise Connelly, a housing manager for the local authority said: “The portfolio of properties is currently under investigation due to the new owners failing to licence the portfolio following the purchase in February 2018 and all relevant lines of enquiry are ongoing to secure the correct evidence.

“The city council has inspected a number of properties and has identified a number of hazards. All properties are now scheduled to be formally inspected”.

Paul Lea, the director of Home Legal Services Ltd, which bought the properties and is now trying to sell them again, said the company was trying to apply for the licences.

He said the firm did not believe it needed the landlord licences because it intended to sell the properties on: “We have asked Liverpool city council for a dispensation so we don’t have to pay the licence fee again. The licence for each property lasts for a period of five years and our understanding is that currently there is still four years left on each licence. The council has advised, because of the change of ownership, the rules are that the properties need to be registered again. That process has started”.

Heather Tyrer of the letting agent Tyrer and Hart, which manages the properties, said: “When ownership of a property changes it is a legal requirement for a new landlord licence to be sought. Since Paul Lea … purchased the portfolio we have been requesting that they licence the properties and allow us to attend to maintenance issues that the tenants have reported.”