Camden HMO landlords warned as new licensing scheme comes into force
Camden landlords are being warned that all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) will need to be licensed under an additional licensing scheme that came into force today (8 December 2015).
The additional licensing scheme, which applies borough-wide, has extended property licensing to an estimated 8,000 properties in Camden. It includes all private rented accommodation shared by three of more people who are not all related, even if the tenants moved in together on a single tenancy.
The licensing scheme also includes ‘Section 257 HMOs’. These are properties that have been converted into self-contained flats but do not comply with the relevant building regulations. Camden Council has restricted the licensing of these Section 257 HMOs to properties where at least 50% of the flats are privately rented.
The licensing scheme has been introduced in an attempt to drive up standards in the private rented sector. As part of the evidence gathering process, Camden Environmental Health Officers visited 391 HMOs and rated 19% as poor or very poor for property management and condition.
During the 22-week consultation exercise, the Council received 1,400 responses to their online survey of which 70% were in favour of the proposed licensing scheme.
To obtain a licence, landlords will need to complete an application form, supply various supporting documents and pass a fit and proper person assessment. They must also pay an application fee of £450 for the property plus an additional £45 for each separate letting (e.g. bedroom, besit or studio flat) within in.
Accredited landlords will receive a £95 discount if they have joined a scheme approved under the London Rental Standard.
The Council have told London Property Licensing that they intend to inspect every property as part of the application process and any necessary improvements may then be added as a condition of the licence.
Risk of enforcement action
HMO landlords who fail to obtain a licence can be prosecuted by the Council and upon conviction, can be subject to a hefty fine and a range of other sanctions, including repayment of up to 12 months rent.
Research conducted by London Property Licensing earlier this year (read here) found that Camden Council were in the top 3 London Boroughs for housing prosecutions from 2011 to 2014.
From today, Camden HMO landlords will also be unable to evict their tenants using a Section 21 notice of seeking possession until a licence application has been submitted or approved. So it is vital to get the process right.
Commenting on the new scheme, Richard Tacagni, Managing Director at London Property Licensing said:
“Let your property to three friends or work colleagues in Camden and you will need a licence to operate from the council, even if the group occupy the property on a single tenancy.
“The mortgage lender is always contacted as part of the application process, so I would recommend landlords check that their HMO letting does not breach any terms and conditions“.