Harrow Council decide to rerun their additional licensing consultation
Research by independent housing consultancy London Property Licensing has discovered an additional licensing consultation recently undertaken by Harrow Council.
The council’s existing borough wide additional licensing scheme, which applies to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), ends on 28 February 2021.
Before a replacement licensing scheme can be introduced, there is a requirement to take reasonable steps to consult people who are likely to be affected by the designation. This includes landlords, letting agents, landlord / letting agent associations, local residents and people living in surrounding areas. The consultation must run for at least 10 weeks.
According to the consultation portal on the council’s website, the additional licensing consultation started on 3 September 2020 and ended on 12 November 2020.
Lack of awareness impacts on ability to respond
London Property Licensing was not notified about the consultation and neither was there a press release on the council’s website. As a result, we were unable to share details of the consultation with the thousands of landlords and agents that visit our website every week.
From our enquiries, we understand other organisations including the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) were also unaware of the consultation.
Harrow Council’s existing additional licensing scheme has not been without controversy. The licensing scheme consultation in 2015 attracted responses from just one managing agent, two landlords and ten residents / tenants.
In August 2018, London Property Licensing issued a warning to landlords after the council’s website incorrectly described their own licensing scheme for over two years. Landlords were told the scheme only applied to properties of two or more storeys occupied by four or more people whereas the scheme applied to all HMOs (read here).
Harrow’s Additional Licensing Consultation Report
London Property Licensing has examined the consultation report published on the council’s website. Within the introduction, it says that fire precautions in HMOs are by definition not be up to standard because they were all converted prior to the 1991 Building Regulations.
It says the council has no estimate for the number of HMOs, although it says the number licensed under the additional licensing scheme has doubled over the last five years to around 560.
It says that 95% of licensed HMOs that have been inspected have resulted in a schedule of work to bring them up to standard. This may account for a large reduction in disrepair complaints from private tenants, down from 417 in 2010/11 to 199 in 2019/20, according to the report.
Within the report we could find no explanation of poor HMO management, crime or anti-social behaviour and how this relates to HMOs that an additional licensing scheme would cover.
Section 5 of the report refers to leasehold blocks and says the council would like to see more leaseholders using Right to Manage Companies. It suggests section 257 HMOs may not need to be licensed. It notes government are looking to change licensing rules, but that happened over two years ago (read here).
The report explains that shared houses and flats occupied by less than five people are unlikely to have the same range of problems as larger properties and concludes:
“It is therefore proposed that the Council will only licence Section 257 HMOs under the Additional HMO licensing scheme.“
Yet, the same report suggests Section 257 HMOs may not need to be licensed.
Section 6 of the report misquotes the council’s existing fee schedule for HMO licence applications. It says all licences had a fixed end date of September 2016, but that related to a previous licensing scheme.
Harrow Council respond to concerns raised
Having feed these observations back to Harrow Council, a council spokesperson told London Property Licensing:
“While all efforts were taken to consult properly, including contacting all our landlords, advertising through Council media channels, posters and so forth, it is recognised that some gaps inadvertently exist.
“Harrow is committed to working with all parties to ensure any scheme introduced is done so for the right reasons, which we still feel is the case here, but more importantly that it is done right and not rushed through.
“To this end, we take on board the comments made and seek to run a second consultation which addresses these points and ensure all parties mentioned are involved.“
Richard Tacagni, MD, London Property Licensing commented:
“I’m sure many in the lettings industry will welcome Harrow Council’s decision to pause the licensing implementation process and run the consultation again. It is important that all parties have sight to the evidence base and can participate in meaningful consultation on such an important topic.“
Harrow Council’s additional licensing consultation report can be viewed here.
A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the London Borough of Harrow is available here.
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