Major upheaval for regulation of the private rented sector in Merton
After a period of relative calm with few licensing schemes in South West London, substantial changes are on the way for landlords and agents operating in the London Borough of Merton.
Merton Council has launched a public consultation on three proposals:
- An additional licensing scheme which will extend licensing to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in seven council wards on the east side of the borough: Figge’s Marsh, Graveney, Longthornton, Pollards Hill, Colliers Wood, Cricket Green and Lavender Fields.
- A selective licensing scheme which will extend licensing to all private rented properties in four council wards on the east side of the borough: Figge’s Marsh, Graveney, Longthornton and Pollards Hill.
- An immediate HMO Article 4 covering the seven council wards on the east side of the borough: Figge’s Marsh, Graveney, Longthornton, Pollards Hill, Colliers Wood, Cricket Green and Lavender Fields.
According to the council, 5,500 properties would need to be licensed under the selective licensing scheme and 700 HMOs under the additional licensing scheme.
The council is proposing a standard selective licensing fee of £652 per property. Additional licensing fees will be dependent on the number of bedrooms, starting from £1,115 for a two bedroom property. Some early bird and accreditation discounts are being considered.
Immediate HMO Article 4 Direction
The HMO Article 4 Direction removes permitted development rights to change a single family property (use class C3) to a HMO with between three and six occupants.
Normally, such powers are introduced after giving 12 months notice so developers have time to prepare. Immediate Directions are only normally considered if the council believe such developments constitute a threat to the amenities of their area.
With the immediate HMO Article 4 Direction in force since 17 November 2022, landlords and agents may find themselves in breach of planning rules if a property has recently been let as an HMO for the first time. The changes to planning rules are not retrospective.
Reasons for licensing and planning changes
Merton Council says they have more than 29,000 rented properties and are committed to tackling the many instances of anti-social behaviour, poor housing conditions and other issues arising from poorly managed properties.
They say they want to increase the number of good landlords whilst tackling the rogue element of the market.
Councillor Andrew Judge, Merton Cabinet Member for Housing and Sustainable Development, said:
“Merton is a brilliant place to live, but some rogue landlords are taking advantage of the demand for housing by renting badly managed and poorly maintained properties.
“We are determined that Merton residents living in rented accommodation have a home that is in good condition and is well managed, and that no resident has to endure the anti-social behaviour caused by overcrowded, poorly managed properties.
“Our consultation offers communities the opportunity to have their say on our proposals to better regulate the private rented sector, leading to more good landlords and well-managed homes.“
The council is encouraging residents, tenants, businesses, private landlords and managing agents who live, work or have a connection to the areas under consideration, including those living in neighbouring boroughs, to take part in the consultation.
The consultation is open until 22 January 2023 and more information can be found on the council’s website.
Our free guide containing more information about property licensing and HMO planning restrictions in the London Borough of Merton is available here.
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