Islington Council have approved new additional and selective landlord licensing schemes

Monday, May 25th, 2020 - Islington Council

New landlord licensing schemes are being introduced in the London Borough of Islington following a decision by the council’s Executive on 19 March 2020.

The council currently operates the mandatory HMO licensing scheme plus an additional licensing scheme that applies to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road. An estimated 66,300 households now rent privately in the borough.

From 5 August to 3 November 2019, the council consulted on proposals to implement new additional and selective licensing schemes (read here).

According to the council, they received 280 online and 30 written and verbal responses to the consultation.

In relation to expanding the additional licensing scheme, there was 67% overall support and a marked difference of opinion between tenures: 77% of private tenants and 89% of owner occupiers supported the proposal whereas support amongst landlords and agents was just 23%.

In relation to a selective licensing scheme in the Finsbury Park ward, there was 64% overall support: 67% of private tenants and 90% of owner occupiers supported the proposal whereas support amongst landlords and agents was just 16%.

Borough wide additional licensing

Having reflected on the consultation feedback, the council has approved plans for a borough wide additional licensing scheme that will apply to all house and flat shares occupied by three or more people who are not all related.

So-called section 257 HMOs (certain buildings converted into self-contained flats) are also included in the additional licensing scheme, but only if all the flats are privately rented and in single ownership.

The council has found HMOs have some of Islington’s poorest housing standards, with many HMO conversions having inadequate fire safety measures. The council say their current additional licensing scheme in Caledonian and Holloway Roads has led to an improvement in the management of properties in that area.

The additional licensing fee will be £288 per letting, reduced to £245 for accredited landlords, making it £1,152 to license a 4 bedroom shared house, or £980 if the landlord is accredited.

The council expect to approve 3,500 additional licences over the next five years, generating about £3 million fee income that will be reinvested in running the scheme.

Selective licensing in Finsbury Park Ward

Islington Council has also approved plans for a selective licensing scheme in the Finsbury Park ward. This will extend licensing to all privately rented properties in this ward, including homes occupied by single people, couples, single households or two unrelated people sharing.

Research by the council has found that Finsbury Park ward contains some of the worst housing conditions in private rented property, with high levels of deprivation which places tenants at greater risk.

The selective licensing fee will be £500 per property with a £75 discount for accredited landlords.

The council expect to approve 2,000 selective licences over the next five years, generating about £1 million fee income that will be reinvested in running the scheme.

According to the council, the two new property licensing schemes will help secure fairer conditions for private renters in the borough by improving living conditions. They will enable the council to set minimum standards for property management, including the provision of kitchen and bathroom facilities, room sizes, health and safety (e.g. fire, gas and electrical safety checks) and kept to an appropriate standard.

The council think the licensing schemes will also benefit responsible landlords by levelling the playing field, ensuring rogue landlords who avoid maintenance are not saving money by renting properties in poor conditions.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council said:

We will not tolerate dodgy operators taking advantage of people’s desperate need for a home.

Licensing schemes are powerful tools to help us protect private renters, as they enable the council to use data to identify properties with poor conditions and take appropriate enforcement action. The council can and does act to protect private renters and we’ve taken significant enforcement action against rogue landlords and dodgy lettings agents recently.

Schemes like this also help the council to ensure that conscientious landlords are rewarded. There are a great many responsible landlords in the borough and schemes like this help to level the playing field.

Scheme implementation delayed by COVID19 pandemic

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, safeagent in conjunction with London Property Licensing recently called on councils to delay new licensing schemes for six months (read here) and the government had advised councils to pause new schemes at an appropriate point (read here).

With this in mind, Islington Council have told us they made the pragmatic decision to temporarily place both schemes on hold for six months. Their decision is sure to be welcomed by many in the lettings industry.

We will monitor the situation and share a further update in due course. At least 3 months notice will be given before the schemes come into force.

A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the London Borough of Islington is available here.

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