Barnet Council to develop selective licensing proposal and increase their housing enforcement activity

Saturday, March 9th, 2019 - Barnet Council

At a Housing Committee meeting on 14 January 2019, Barnet councillors unanimously agreed to explore proposals for a selective landlord licensing scheme covering all private rented properties within a designated area.

At present, Barnet Council operate the mandatory HMO licensing scheme together with an additional licensing scheme covering most Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) occupied by four or more people.

When the additional licensing scheme was implemented in 2016, the council anticipated that 3,836 HMOs would need licensing. In practice, the number of licence applications submitted has been far lower and the council acknowledge that securing licence applications has been resource intensive.

According to the Committee report, there are currently 831 licensed HMOs, representing just 22% of the applications expected for a scheme that started in 2016. As part of their plans, the council intend to recruit two additional housing enforcement officers. Their salaries will be paid from HMO licensing fees and income from financial penalties imposed on landlords and agents.

The report acknowledges that a lot of time is being taken up processing temporary exemption notice applications, ensuing compliance with licence conditions and administering financial penalties.

According to the report, there have been 17 successful housing prosecutions since March 2016, 1 financial penalty has been served and another 20 financial penalties are currently being processed. On a more positive note, Barnet had 838 accredited landlords in December 2018 under the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, which is above average for the London boroughs.

Selective licensing proposal for Barnet

The Housing Committee report suggests that implementing a selective licensing scheme might make it easier for them to administer HMO licensing as all private rented properties would need to be licensed.

After considering the report, the Committee approved plans to recruit a project officer to develop a selective licensing proposal over the next 12 to 18 months. At present, it is not known what area the scheme would cover, the cost of the licence application fee or the proposed licence conditions.

Two recent landlord prosecutions in Barnet

Last month, Barnet Council announced that officers from the council’s Private Sector Housing Enforcement Team had discovered a two-storey HMO occupied by seven people in Hamonde Close, Edgware during an evening inspection.

They wrote to the owner, Charles Molen, twice to ask him to confirm how many people were living in the building but he did not reply within the 14-day deadline. As a result, he was convicted at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on 22 January and ordered to pay £2,650 within 28 days.

In a separate case, two landlords have been ordered to pay more than £30,000 for breaching fire safety and maximum occupancy licence conditions at their licensed HMO.

Officers discovered that the HMO in Sandringham Road, Golders Green NW11 had no fire alarm or emergency lighting systems during a routine inspection. They found that six people were living at the address, which was only licensed to house five people.

Landlords Mark Goldsmith, of Golders Green Road, and lian Hatuka, of Sandringham Road, were prosecuted by the council. They were found guilty of failing without reasonable excuse to comply with their licence conditions at Willesden Magistrates Court on Thursday 14 February following a ‘not guilty’ plea. Goldsmith and Hatuka were ordered to pay £15,420 each, including the council’s costs.

Councillor Gabriel Rozenberg, Chairman of the Housing Committee, Barnet Council said:

Landlords must follow the correct legislation when it comes to licensing HMOs. Failure to do so will result in enforcement action which may result in prosecution or a Penalty Notice of up to £30,000. So far in 2019 we have already issued £46,900 worth of penalty notices.

All too often landlords think that their legal obligations are met when they submit their HMO licence application. However, all licences have conditions that landlords are legally obliged to comply with to ensure the safety of their tenants. I am delighted that the courts support our approach to driving up housing standards for tenants throughout the borough.

For more information on the property licensing requirements in Barnet, you can read our free guide here.

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