Landlords urged to comply with new additional licensing scheme in Lewisham Borough
On 11 February 2017, an additional landlord licensing scheme was implemented in the London Borough of Lewisham. The licensing scheme applies borough wide to all houses in multiple occupation (HMO) above commercial premises.
Under the new arrangements, landlords must obtain a licence to rent out a flat or maisonette above commercial premises to three or more people who are not all related, even if they occupy the property on a single tenancy. The scheme also applies to certain buildings converted into self-contained flats above commercial premises. The HMO definition can be complicated and landlords may need to seek advice.
Lewisham Council estimate that about 1,800 private rented properties will need to be licensed under the new scheme, with most licences issued for five years.
Dramatic rise in licence application fees
Accompanying the new licensing scheme has been a dramatic increase in licence application fees, with landlords being charged up to £500 per bedroom. A shared flat occupied by three students or young professionals will cost up to £1,500 while a five-bedroom property could cost up to £2,500. London Property Licensing believes these could be the highest property licence application fees in the country.
Fortunately, early bird discounted fees that were due to end on 11 February have been extended, due in part we believe to problems with their online application system. Lewisham Council have told London Property Licensing that the 10% early bird discount has been extended until 31 March 2017.
Further discounts are available for accredited landlords although some teething problems with the new application system make it important to check applicants have been charged the correct fee.
Lewisham Council have said that landlords operating private lettings without a licence could face prosecution and an unlimited fine or a Rent Repayment Order (RRO). Any landlord operating a licensable but unlicensed property is also unable to evict their tenant using a section 21 notice of seeking possession. The council have said that income raised through this scheme will be invested in private rented sector housing.
The council have said they are committed to working with private landlords to ensure their properties are fit to live in.
Councillor Damien Egan, Lewisham’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said:
“As house prices rise, more and more people are renting privately, so it’s important that housing in our borough is of a decent standard, safe and well managed. Our licensing scheme will support people who rent good quality homes and crack down on rogue landlords who exploit vulnerable tenants and families.‘
Further information about property licensing in Lewisham is available at www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/lewisham. Expert independent advice is also available to help make your property compliant (contact us).
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