New additional and selective licensing schemes being implemented in Harrow
When it comes to promoting new property licensing schemes, Harrow Council is unlikely to win any awards. They have recently approved two new property licensing schemes but with very little fanfare and few people seem to be aware.
The decision to introduce a replacement additional licensing scheme was made by the Council’s Cabinet on 19 November 2015. The scheme designation was made on 1 December and the licensing scheme came into force on 1 March 2016.
The additional licensing scheme has received very little publicity and according to the Council’s website, there has been no press release about the scheme since the designation was made on 1 December 2015.
The information only came to light when London Property Licensing chased Harrow Council for a licensing update earlier this month, despite the Council promising to keep us informed.
From 1 November 2010 to 31 October 2015, Harrow Council had operated an additional licensing scheme but restricted it to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that were two or more storeys high and occupied by four or more people. By the time the scheme ended, about 270 properties were licensed.
In a change to the previous scheme, Harrow’s new additional licensing scheme has extended licensing to all HMOs throughout the borough, so it includes all private rented houses and flats with three or more occupants who are not all related and share a kitchen or bathroom.
The scheme also includes so-called ‘Section 257 HMOs’ – i.e. buildings that have been converted into self-contained flats and meet certain criteria.
Many landlords and letting agents may be unaware of this significant change in licensing criteria and inadvertently find themselves in breach of the law.
According to Harrow Council, they do not know how many HMOs will need to be licensed as they have not carried out an HMO survey for many years. According to the council, there were about 17,000 households living in the private rented sector in 2010, a figure that is likely to have increased over the last six years. We anticipate there will be thousands of licensable properties within the borough.
Selective licensing in Wealdstone Ward
Meanwhile, a second selective licensing scheme has been implemented in Harrow, affecting all private landlords in the Wealdstone Ward. The first selective scheme, introduced in December 2015, already applies to the Edgware Ward.
The decision to introduce this second selective licensing scheme was made by the Council’s Cabinet on 18 February 2016. The scheme designation was made on 1 March 2016 and the licensing scheme will come into force on 1 June 2016.
Within the two selective licensing areas, almost every private rented home will need to be licensed.
Harrow Licensing Public Consultation
Harrow Council consulted on the proposal for an additional licensing scheme between April and August 2015 but only received thirteen responses including 2 from landlords, 1 from a managing agent and 1 from a private tenant. This is an extremely low response rate for a scheme that will impact on thousands of people.
Meanwhile, the selective licensing consultation attracted over 70 online responses, although none of the online responses were from letting agents and only about a dozen were from landlords. The survey showed a majority in favour of the scheme but did not break this down into the different interest groups.
When combined with feedback from a landlord forum and landlord drop in day, Harrow Council concluded that the consultation showed significant support for selective licensing across tenants, service providers and landlords, as well as owner occupied premises.
A five-year additional licence application will cost £1,250, which is towards the top end of additional licensing fees adopted by the London Boroughs.
The selective licensing fee has been set at a lower £500 per property for a five-year licence.
There is a discount of £75 off the first licence for all accredited landlords.