Hackney Council approve plans for new landlord licensing scheme
New additional and selective landlord licensing schemes were approved at Hackney Council’s Cabinet meeting on 19 March 2018.
The additional licensing scheme will apply to an estimated 4,000 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) throughout the borough. The scheme will include any property occupied by three or more people who are not all related and share facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms and toilets.
The scheme will also apply to so-called ‘section 257 HMOs’ which are certain buildings converted into flats that do not comply with the relevant building regulations. However, the council have decided to restrict licensing of section 257 HMOs to situations where all the flats are privately rented.
A selective licensing scheme is also being implemented in the council wards of Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington. Under the selective scheme, all private rented properties that are not HMOs will also need to be licensed, including every property occupied by a single person, a couple or a family – an estimated 1,500 properties.
According to the council, one in three households in Hackney now rents privately, with rent increases of 36% since 2011. A two bedroom privately rented home now costs over £1,800 a month on average.
According to the council, 291 people took part in their 2017 property licensing consultation of which 44% were landlords, 32% were tenants and the rest were classed as ‘other’.
In relation to additional licensing, 41% of respondents supported the proposal and 55% were opposed. In relation to selective licensing, 38% supported the proposal and 56% were opposed. The council said that the low response rate from tenants makes it hard to draw any meaningful conclusions as to whether or not they would support or oppose these proposals and why.
Timescale and costs
To date, the council have not said when the licensing scheme will come into force or when landlord applications can be submitted. The licensing schemes are expected to start later in the year. It is important to submit licence applications before the schemes start to minimise the compliance risk.
The council have said the cost of a selective licence will be £500 per property whereas an additional licence will cost £950. There will be a £50 discount for accredited landlords and licences will be issued for up to five years.
Better renting campaign
Implementation of these new measures follows research commissioned by the council as part of their Better Renting campaign, which estimates that more than 15% of the 4,700 privately rented homes in the Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington wards, and one in five of all HMOs across the borough suffer from serious hazards ranging from damp and mould to dangerous boilers, exposed wiring and vermin infestations.
Landlords and letting agents who don’t apply for a licence or fail to comply with its conditions are being warned they may face a civil penalty of up to £30,000, a criminal prosecution leading to an unlimited fine, and be forced to pay back up to a year’s rent. Serious offenders could be served with a banning order preventing them from letting out a property, and placed on a rogue landlord database.
Cllr Sem Moema, Mayoral Advisor for Private Renting and Housing Affordability said:
“As a long term renter in Hackney myself, I’ve experienced first hand a private rented sector in which the odds are stacked all too firmly in favour of landlords. These new measures are a milestone in our commitment to challenging this and creating a better system for renters in the borough.
“We know that many landlords provide a good service to their tenants, but all too many fail to do so. Introducing additional property licensing will mean landlords will have to bring hundreds of homes up to scratch in hazard hotspots where conditions are at their worst.
“In Hackney we’ve always provided advice and support to those struggling in the private sector and pushed government to do more to help renters – but this move shows that we’re also willing to intervene in the market to get renters the protection they deserve“.
The move is the latest initiative in the Council’s Better Renting campaign, which aims to protect Hackney’s 33,000 private renting households and tackle the minority of landlords who take advantage of this growth in demand by letting out homes that don’t meet modern standards and put tenants’ safety at risk.
For further information about the landlord licensing schemes in Hackney, visit www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/hackney
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