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Westminster City Council’s additional licensing scheme comes into force on 30 August 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021 - Westminster City Council

A borough wide additional licensing scheme covering all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Westminster comes into force on 30 August 2021.

The council estimate the scheme will cover around 9,000 HMOs, including house and flat shares, bedsits, and some buildings converted into flats. Smaller house and flat shares will now require a licence if they are occupied by three or more people forming more than one household.

The scheme, which is part of the council’s wider private rented sector strategy, aims to enforce higher standards and to protect private renters in HMOs across the city. It will apply to both new and existing tenancies, including HMOs occupied on a single group tenancy.

A consultation on the additional licensing scheme was held earlier this year, and the scheme was approved at Westminster City Council’s full council meeting.

A recent study found that poor housing standards are far more likely to be found in the HMO sector, with the council having to make 25,341 interventions between 2016 and 2018. The new policy will set a common standard for landlords across the borough, raising housing standards and supporting residents.

The main aims of the licensing scheme include:

  • Increasing housing standards for HMOs across the city, providing clear minimum standards for properties and selectively targeting interventions at the worst properties affected by poor tenancy management, the need for repairs, fire safety hazard, and anti-social behaviour.
  • Protecting private rented tenants from the negative social and health effects of poorly managed and maintained properties, and reducing inequality of housing.
  • Creating sustainable private rented sector tenancies that are attractive to good tenants.
  • Making Westminster a safer and more desirable place to live by reducing instances of poor tenancy management.

To ensure compliance, applications should be submitted by 30 August. Operating a HMO without a licence and failing to comply with licensing conditions can lead to a civil penalty of up to £30,000 per offence, or prosecution in the Magistrates Court. Tenants can also reclaim their rent during the period the property was in breach of the licensing scheme.

Cllr Heather Acton, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Regeneration, said:

We want to ensure our residents and communities are living in the highest standards possible in Westminster. The Additional Licensing Scheme gives us a greater ability to monitor and regulate this specific part of the housing sector.

The scheme puts the safety of our residents first, protecting private rented tenants living in shared properties from poorly managed and badly maintained housing. This helps Westminster have good accommodation so that it is a diverse and desirable place where people want to live. It will help the sector create sustainable tenancies with empowered tenants and reputable landlords.

A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing and HMO planning rules in the City of Westminster is available here.

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