Barnet Council announce new landlord licensing scheme
A new additional licensing scheme is being implemented in Barnet following a decision by the Council’s Housing Committee on 1 February 2016.
The property licensing scheme, which will start on 5 July 2016, applies borough wide and includes certain Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) containing four or more people who are not all related.
The licensing criteria are quite complicated and need to be studied carefully. For example, the additional licensing scheme applies to properties two or more storeys high, flats on the second or higher storey and owner occupied homes with four or more lodgers.
The scheme also includes so-called ‘Section 257 HMOs’ – buildings that have been converted into self-contained flats and meet certain criteria. Fortunately, Barnet Council have restricted this aspect of licensing to three storey buildings where the building and all the flats are owned by the same person.
According to the Council, there are estimated to by 5,931 HMOs in Barnet, of which 3,836 will need to be licensed.
Barnet Public Consultation
Barnet Council consulted on the proposals over 17 weeks from 25 June to 23 October 2015 and received 278 responses. A further 32 landlords and 73 others attended various forum meetings to discuss the scheme.
Barnet Council says there was strong support (75%+) for the licensing scheme from private tenants, residents and other organisations, but less than 20% support from landlords and letting agents.
At a landlord event, the council reported there was strong opposition for the scheme with most participants thinking the council should make better use of their existing enforcement powers instead.
Many landlords may only get a 1-year licence
In a slightly unusual move, the council have said that landlords who apply within 3 months of the scheme declaration will be eligible for a 5-year licence, whereas any applications after that date will only be eligible for a 1-year licence unless they can show good reason for the late application.
Fees are also on the increase, with a 5-year standard licence application costing £1,008 for 5 people, whereas the same 1-year licence will cost £655. We understand an online application system is currently being developed and these applications will attract a slightly lower fee.
New planning controls for HMOs
In addition to the licensing scheme, Barnet Council have been consulting on new planning controls to restrict the number of new HMOs in the borough.
Subject to final approval, a new HMO Article 4 Direction will come into force on 29 May 2016. The effect of the order will be to require planning permission for changing a single family home to an HMO with between 3 and 6 occupants. At the moment, planning permission is only needed if there are 7 or more occupants in an HMO.
London Property Licensing has recently set up a new service to help landlords and letting agents submit licence applications and you can find out more information here.