Havering Council look set to consult on new landlord licensing scheme
Investigations by London Property Licensing have uncovered proposals to implement a selective licensing scheme in the London Borough of Havering, where private rented homes account for around 11% of the housing stock, significantly below the London average.
On 23 September 2015, a Private Rented Sector Landlords Topic Group Report was presented at Havering Council’s Cabinet Meeting. The report follows a review conducted by the Council’s Towns and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee Group.
The report noted that community led campaigns had been organised to challenge the development of new Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the borough. This led the council to propose the introduction of an Article 4 Direction to restrict new HMO developments. Subject to final confirmation, the HMO Article 4 Directions will come into force in July 2016.
The report goes on to explore a range of options to further regulate the private rented sector, including options for both additional and selective licensing. The evidence base explores private rented sector demographics, levels of anti-social behaviour and crime, property conditions and environmental crime.
In summarising the data, the report concludes that the council wards of Brooklands, Gooshays and Heaton score highest against these criteria, when the results for the three wards are combined.
The report recommends the implementation of a selective licensing scheme in the council wards of Brooklands, Gooshays and Heaton, subject to a consultation exercise. According to the Council, this would extend licensing to around 1,900 private rented homes in those three wards.
There was also a second recommendation that selective licensing should be extended throughout the borough, subject to obtaining Secretary of State consent. According to the Council, this would extend licensing to around 10,000 private rented homes.
Havering’s Cabinet Meeting approved both recommendations on 23 September, although the council will be unable to implement any proposals without carrying out a full public consultation exercise. The timing for the consultation remains unclear.
Commenting on the decision, David Smith, Partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors said:
“It is surprising that the council have apparently made a decision to go ahead with licensing without having a full consultation and considering the evidence first.
“Recent decision of the Supreme Court make clear that a consultation must be carried out at a stage when the decision is still at a formative stage. By apparently making the decision in advance of a consultation the possibility of a challenge to any licensing scheme is opened up.
“Given the very low level of enforcement carried out by Havering Council it is also heard to see how the Council will demonstrate that it has explored other options adequately prior to making a decision to licence“.
In May 2015, research by London Property Licensing analysed the level of housing prosecutions taken by all London boroughs. From 2011 to 2014, Havering Council did not prosecute any landlords for breaches of the Housing Act 2004, placing them at the bottom of the housing enforcement league table when compared to all London Boroughs.
As of March 2015, Havering Council had licensed 31 HMOs under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.
For more information on property licensing and HMO Article 4 Directions in Havering, visit www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/havering.