Mayor of London launches new property licence checker
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today (18 November 2020) launched a new online tool to help private renters discover if their properly has been correctly licensed.
The property licensing regime in London has become extremely complicated, with over thirty five additional and selective licensing schemes currently in force and more schemes being developed. To date, the London Property Licensing website remains the only source of comprehensive information on every London property licensing scheme.
In launching this new service, the Greater London Authority (GLA) acknowledge that the current patchwork of property licensing schemes can make it difficult for tenants to know if their landlord has applied for the correct licence. Equally, it makes it difficult for landlords and agents to understand whether their property requires licensing.
Property licensing is an important tool that boroughs can use to enforce decent standards in the private rented sector, and for landlords to demonstrate that their property is suitable for occupation and managed to an acceptable standard.
The London Property Licence Checker
The Mayor’s new Property Licence Checker helps renters find out whether their home needs a licence and, if so, directs them to the relevant borough to check whether a licence is in place. People are asked to input their postcode and answer some simple questions to discover if a licence is needed.
Whilst entitled a property licence checker, the service does not confirm whether a licence application has been submitted or approved. It simply refers tenants to the relevant council website to find out more.
At present, not all boroughs publish their public register of licensed properties online, which makes it more difficult to tell if a property that requires licensing has been licensed.
The property licence checker will enable tenants to contact their council if they have licensing concerns, thereby providing valuable intelligence to help boroughs target their enforcement against rogue landlords.
The dangers of non-compliance
If a landlord or agent has not applied for the correct property licence, they may be subject to enforcement action from the local council which can result in prosecution or a civil penalty of up to £30,000 for each offence.
If the landlord or agent has not applied for the correct property licence, a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice would be invalid. The tenants may be able to claim a Rent Repayment Order covering up to 12 months’ rent. With the current average rent in London at around £1,425 per month, a year’s reclaimed rent would come to more than £17,000.
Is the checker a reliable tool for landlords and agents?
Whilst the Property Licence Checker may at first glance seem a useful tool for landlords and agents, London Property Licensing is urging caution in relying solely on this information for the purposes of ensuring compliance.
Richard Tacagni, MD, London Property Licensing commented:
“Whilst the property licence checker seems reasonably accurate, when we are dealing with legal compliance, it must be 100% accurate if landlords and agents are to rely on the information provided.
“From spot checks I’ve carried out, some rented properties that are licensable show no licence needed, whilst others show they do not require a licence when they do. I am liaising with the lettings industry and will provide the GLA with urgent feedback to help fine tune the system.
“Until the system is updated, I would encourage landlords and agents to use the more detailed borough guides to licensing published on the London Property Licensing website, or visit the council’s website.“
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
“With nearly a fifth of London’s private rented accommodation not meeting basic standards, it is vital that every privately rented property is licensed so landlords can be held to account for the conditions their tenants live in.
“My new Property Licence Checker is a key part of my work to redress the imbalance of power that currently exists in the London private rented sector. London’s renters deserve to live in safe, secure, comfortable accommodation, whilst councils need the tools to deal with rogue operators.
“That’s why I’m calling on the Government to give City Hall the power to consider and approve new licensing schemes in London. This would help create more consistency in property licensing across London, creating a more transparent system for landlords and better protections for London’s private renters, who time and again are treated as an afterthought by ministers.”
Roz Spencer from Safer Renting said:
“Although property licensing is a national requirement, each borough has variations in it’s schemes. So it’s crucial for renters to know if their landlord requires a licence or not. No licence means you can potentially claim back 12 month’s worth of rent.
“We would recommend checking whether property needs and has a licence before taking on a tenancy. Would you want to be renting from a landlord who is avoiding their responsibilities?
“As with the Mayor’s “Check a Landlord” portal, this is another significant tool to empower London’s renters that those outside the capital don’t have.“
The Mayor’s new Property Licence Checker can be viewed here.
Free guides containing more detailed information about every property licensing scheme in London can be viewed by clicking on the orange ‘Select Borough’ button at the top of the page.
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