Kingston Council are consulting on plans to renew additional licensing scheme despite low number of applications received

Friday, July 7th, 2017 -

Investigations by London Property Licensing have revealed a consultation by Kingston Council on proposals to extend their additional landlord licensing scheme for a further five years.

The council already operate a borough wide additional licensing schemes that came into force on 21 December 2012 and is due to end on 20 December 2017.

The additional licensing scheme extends licensing to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that are three or more storeys in height, plus HMOs that are one or two storeys in height and occupied by five or more people.

Previous research by London Property Licensing found that the council expected to license 500 to 1,000 properties under the additional licensing scheme. A September 2016 Housing Sub-Committee report noted that renewal of the additional licensing scheme will help to protect 7,000 Kingston University students.

The same report in September 2016 said that just 165 HMOs had been licensed under the additional licensing scheme of which 130 had been inspected. This suggests that only 16% to 33% of properties have been licensed.

With at least two thirds of properties unlicensed, a high level of enforcement activity might have been expected. However, information provided by the council shows that just one landlord was prosecuted over the five year period from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2016. That prosecution was in 2012.

Kingston additional licensing consultation underway

According to the council’s website, the Kingston additional licensing consultation was due to end on Sunday 6 August although the website has just been updated to say the consultation is now open ‘until September 2017’. It does not say when the consultation started.

A spokesperson for Kingston Council told London Property Licensing that the new scheme will mirror their current scheme which they are not intending to alter. The online licensing consultation form asks just four questions:

  • Are you a landlord, tenant or other stakeholder?
  • Do you feel licensing improves standards in the private rented sector?
  • Is five tenants or more the right number of tenants which means a licence is required?
  • Should all three storey HMOs be licensed?

There is also a box to insert any other comments.

Questions have been raised about whether this meets the government’s consultation requirements which say:

During consultation, LHAs must give a detailed explanation of the proposed designation, explaining the reasons for the designation, how it will tackle specific problems, the potential benefits etc‚Ķ‚Ķ..“.

When asked about the supporting evidence base, London Property Licensing were directed to the HMO licensing page on the council’s website which explains which properties need licensing under the current arrangements.

We were also directed to a Housing sub-committee report dated 30 September 2016 which outlined a proposed consultation plan.

It said that a phase 1 consultation would be carried out for 12 weeks in 2016 to explore various options. A licensing panel would then be convened to undertake a full option appraisal before proceeding to a phase 2 consultation (currently underway) to explore options in more detail.

To date, London Property Licensing has been unable to find the results from the phase 1 consultation or the subsequent option appraisal.

David Smith, Policy Director, Residential Landlords Association commented:

While there are circumstances in which property licensing can add value it is important that Council’s ensure that this is the most appropriate solution. With the changes made by the Housing and Planning Act it is often the case that there are better enforcement methods available. Licensing properties should not become a distraction from the more important objective of providing fairly priced, good quality accommodation to rent“.

The consultation exercise closes in September 2017. You can find information about the consultation by visiting the council’s website.

A consultation meeting is taking place on Monday 17 July 2017 between 3pm and 8pm at Guildhall, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT1 1EU, which all interested parties can attend.

More information about property licensing schemes in Kingston is available

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