The mystery of Lewisham’s additional landlord licensing scheme
Investigations by London Property Licensing have uncovered the mystery of Lewisham’s additional licensing scheme that recently disappeared from the council’s website – an issue that has been causing confusion to local landlords and agents.
On 23 September 2016, we announced the launch of Lewisham’s additional licensing scheme that applied to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) located in buildings above commercial premises (read here).
According to the Council, the private rented sector in Lewisham had doubled in size since 2001 and now comprised more than 30,000 units of accommodation, housing 25% of borough residents. Lewisham Council estimate that the scheme would require licensing of around 1,800 properties.
Landlords who applied for a licence before 23 September were eligible for an early bird discount.
Everything seemed to be running smoothly until late October when we noticed that the additional licensing scheme had disappeared from the council’s website. There was instead a message that read “An additional scheme is due to be introduced in early 2017“.
So what happened. Following discussions with London Property Licensing and others, we understand the council noticed errors in their scheme designation. The public notice said the scheme would apply to all HMOs above and below commercial premises whereas the consultation had only been about licensing of HMOs above commercial premises.
Council officers therefore decided the designation was null and void and so the scheme could not proceed, or they may be open to legal challenge.
Richard Tacagni, Managing Director, London Property Licensing commented:
“The problems experienced by Lewisham Council will no doubt cause reverberations in local authorities up and down the country. A heart stopping moment while they check – did they get their designation right?
“It is absolutely critical that councils ensure any licensing scheme designation is correctly drafted and publicised in full compliance with the statutory requirements. I would advise any council’s unsure of the correct process to seek appropriate advice“.
Whilst some landlords and letting may welcome this development, it seems any reprieve will be short lived. A further report was presented to Mayor and Cabinet on 9 November seeking approval for a new additional licensing scheme to be implemented in 2017. The new implementation date will be confirmed once the scheme designation has been finalised.
For those landlords and agents that have already submitted applications, we understand you can either withdraw your application and request a refund, or keep the application lodged ready for when the new scheme comes into force.
Further information about property licensing in Lewisham is available at www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/lewisham or by visiting the Council’s website. London Property Licensing can assist with submitting licence applications in the London area and advise on all the rules and regulations. Contact us to request more information.