Politicians have kicked out plans to make landlords sign up to a scheme that would have seen their properties registered and inspected to ensure they comply with minimum standards.
According to the Environment Minister, who put forward the proposals, the licensing scheme plan aimed to improve the quality of housing in Jersey’s private rental market.
But that plan was rejected in a narrow vote with 20 in favour, 24 against and four abstentions.
The Chief Minister was among those to refrain from taking part in the debate or voting because he is a residential and commercial landlord. Others, however, declared their interest and proceeded to contribute and vote.
The States Assembly has voted to REJECT the principals of the Minister for the Environment’s proposal to introduce licences and associated regulations for landlords.— States Assembly (@StatesAssembly) September 9, 2020
20 FOR vs 24 AGAINST
Housing Minister Senator Sam Mézec, who had spoken strongly in favour of the plans, shared his frustration at the result on Twitter, drawing attention to the number of voting landlords who are themselves landlords.
“I’ve just done the maths. If States Members who had declared a financial interest in the outcome of the landlord licensing debate had been required to withdraw and not take part in the debate, then the result would have been in favour.
"Vested interests win the day,” he said.
I’ve just done the maths. If States Members who had declared a financial interest in the outcome of the landlord licencing debate had been required to withdraw and not take part in the debate, then the result would have been in favour.— Senator Sam Mézec (@SamMezecJsy) September 9, 2020
Vested interests win the day.
Ahead of the debate, the Jersey Landlords Association (JLA) and the Jersey Tenants Forum submitted reports to States Members outlining their views.
The latter had argued that the plan was necessary, as self-regulation and voluntary schemes had previously failed to protect tenants, with 448 complaints made to the Environment Department about accommodation failing to meet minimum standards since they were introduced.
But the JLA, for which recently elected Assistant Minister Deputy Rowland Huelin is a Political Consultant, said the scheme would simply mean more expense and “red tape” for landlords during already challenging economic circumstances.
JLA Chair Peter Lucas described the rejection of the proposals as neither a "victory for landlords or defeat for tenants, but rather the triumph of common sense."
He continued: "The JLA had argued that it was not a sensible use of taxpayers’ money to inspect thousands of properties to find a handful of bad ones, and it appears that the majority of States Members agree with that position.
"We also said that the most cost-effective way to identify poorly maintained properties and to root out bad landlords is to empower tenants. This means understanding why tenants have historically not complained and doing everything that can be done to change that.
"We have made several suggestions, including the upgrading of leases to include important information about who a tenant can contact in the event of a complaint, and a declaration by the landlord that their property is compliant with all pertinent regulations."
He added that landlords were keen to work productively with Government to promote good standards in the sector.
"This is not a case of the JLA resisting reform, rather we just want to see things done in a targeted and cost-effective manner. We want to help Environmental Health to promote good standards in the sector and will be contacting the Minister shortly."
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