Government approve plans to extend Waltham Forest’s selective licensing scheme until 2025
Following the government’s decision to block a new citywide selective licensing scheme in Liverpool, councillors in Waltham Forest will be pleased their efforts have been more fruitful.
Following a consultation exercise in early 2019, the London Borough of Waltham Forest applied for government approval to extend their selective licensing scheme for another five years (read here).
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has now given approval to renew Waltham Forest’s selective licensing scheme. Whereas the current scheme applied borough wide, the new scheme will cover 18 out of 20 wards and will commence on 1 May 2020. The two wards excluded from the new selective licensing scheme are Hatch Lane and Endlebury.
The selective licensing scheme will complement the council’s borough wide additional licensing scheme that will apply to most smaller Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) from 1 April 2020. As such, it is important to ensure the correct licence application is submitted.
With more than a third of residents in Waltham Forest renting privately, and evidence that over 8,000 rented homes contain significant hazards, the council say licensing will enable them to intervene and help raise housing standards, reduce anti-social-behaviour, and allow the council to deal effectively with non-compliant landlords who exploit vulnerable tenants.
Cllr Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Prevention, Waltham Forest Council said:
“Our selective licensing scheme is an important tool for us as we work to ensure all private rental tenants in Waltham Forest have a decent roof over their head. I’m very pleased that the MHCLG have approved our proposal to operate the scheme in 18 out of our 20 wards over the next five years.
“We know that the majority of landlords are reputable and take good care of their properties and tenants. However, there are a minority who are happy to take advantage of those in need of a home and exploit them to line their own pockets.
“Our message to these rogue landlords is clear: If you want to rent property out in Waltham Forest, your property must meet the licensing scheme’s standards and you must ensure that your tenants are safe. If you do not, we will find out and take action against you. Tenants deserve to live safety, with security, and in comfort.“
The selective licensing scheme ensures landlords meet a set of licence conditions such as making sure fire safety precautions are in place and that they are properly managed. It will also help the council deal with anti-social behaviour (ASB), as the licence makes landlords responsible for dealing with ASB at the earliest opportunity.
The council recognise that there are many good landlords operating in the borough and is offering an ‘early-bird’ discount to those responsible landlords who apply for a selective licence between 1 May and 31 July 2020.
The council have said they will continue to run landlord forums, providing guidance on how to make necessary rental property improvements, comply with any new legislation and become more professional in their approach to renting out properties – enabling landlords to provide a high-quality service to local residents.
Waltham Forest Council’s Property Licensing Schemes
Once the new schemes start, there will be three different property licensing schemes operating in the borough.
Mandatory HMO licensing: a national scheme that applies to most HMOs occupied by five or more people who are not all related.
Additional licensing: a local scheme that applies borough wide to HMOs not already covered by the mandatory HMO licensing scheme (excluding section 257 HMOs). It includes houses and flats shared by three or four people who are not all related and rent the property privately. The scheme was approved by Waltham Forest Cabinet on 11 July 2019 and will launch on 1 April 2020.
Selective licensing: a local scheme that applies to all private rented homes that are not already covered by mandatory HMO or additional licensing. Selective licensing scheme was first launched in Waltham Forest in April 2015 and will end on 31 March 2020. The replacement selective licensing scheme will start on 1 May 2020 and will apply in all council wards except for Hatch Lane and Endlebury.
Since selective licensing was first introduced in the borough in April 2015 over 27,000 property licences have been issued and the council has:
- issued more than 149 civil penalties;
- issued more than 50 interim management orders;
- improved 3,100 privately rented properties; and
- pursued 94 successful prosecutions, resulting in more than £323,000 in court-imposed fines.
Those who don’t obtain the correct licence or fail to comply with licence conditions where a licence has been granted can face criminal prosecution or a civil financial penalty of up to £30,000 for each offence. Landlords who do not apply can also be forced to pay back their tenants up to a year’s rent via a Rent Repayment Order. Serious offenders can be banned from letting homes completely and placed on a rogue landlord database.
A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the London Borough of Waltham Forest is available here.
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