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Canterbury city council could lobby the government to make student landlords pay business rates

The city council will tonight night decide whether to lobby government in a bid to make student landlords pay business rates.

It follows growing concern that the cash-strapped authority is losing out on significant income from being a university city.

Already students are exempt from paying council tax, the loss of which in the district is estimated at £5,543,000, with £694,000 being Canterbury’s share.

Student lets in Regency Place, Canterbury
Student lets in Regency Place, Canterbury

But there are concerns that large scale student landlords - some operating dozens of properties - are simply running profiting-making businesses with significant impact on the housing market at the expense of the city.

The same concerns have been raised in Liverpool which has already prompted its city council to write to the government calling for a change in the rules.

Now a similar proposal is due to be debated by Canterbury City Council’s Community Committee in the Guildhall.

Members are being asked whether to authorise the leader of the council, Cllr Simon Cook to write to Canterbury’s MP, ministers and the Local Government Authority to make the same request.

City council leader Simon Cook
City council leader Simon Cook

Cllr Cook said; "I completely understand why this has been brought to the community committee because it is a debate which has to be had.

"The problem is not of the students’ making and they, of course, contribute significantly to the economy of the city.

"But we are being put in a predicament as the government withdraws the allowance we receive for not getting council tax from these properties.

"We have to start looking at a way because the student population receives a lot of services from the council.

"It’s about being fair to students, who have their owns pressures, but also to residents and exploring a way forward."

The recent publication of a Further and Higher Education Impact Review in the district highlighted the loss of income from either council tax or business rates from student lets.

It revealed four in five privately-rented houses in the district are occupied by students, totalling around 3,800 properties.

Professor Richard Norman
Professor Richard Norman

Writing on the Local Democracy Forum, Professor Richard Norman, who is a member of the St Michael’s Residents’ Association - an area of high student accommodation - welcomed the idea of landlords being charged business rates.

He said: "I know some of the likely responses - that this would just be passed on to student tenants - but the inescapable fact is that Canterbury suffers greatly from loss of council tax because of the very large student population, all of whom are users of local facilities and services."

The Residential Landlords Association however has serious concerns over the plans, fearing they could force students’ rents up and reduce the quality of the accommodation on offer.

Speaking following the Liverpool decision, its chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: "This sets a very dangerous precedent. Where one council goes others are sure to follow.

"Landlords will look to recoup this extra tax by increasing their rents and taxing them in this way will reduce the amount of money they have to spend on repairs and home improvements for their tenants."

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