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New additional landlord licensing scheme starts in Tower Hamlets on 1 April 2019

Saturday, February 2, 2019

At a Cabinet meeting on 31 October 2018, Tower Hamlets Council approved plans for an additional licensing scheme that will apply borough wide except for the pre-2014 wards of Weavers, Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Banglatown, which are located in the west of the borough. The new licensing scheme comes into force on 1 April 2019.

Within the designated area, the additional licensing scheme applies to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) occupied by three or more people who are not all related. It includes house and flat shares for young professionals in and around the business district of Canary Wharf.

The council have included certain converted blocks of flats, so-called ‘section 257 HMOs’, within the licensing scheme. According to the scheme designation, the licensing of section 257 HMOs is being restricted to buildings where all the flats are privately rented. Individual flats within a block may still need licensing if they are occupied by three or more sharers. 

The council estimate that around 9,000 properties will need to be licensed under the additional licensing scheme. It is important to note that there is no grace period and applications need to be submitted by 1 April 2019 to ensure compliance.

Those who don’t apply for a licence or fail to comply with licence conditions can face fixed penalties of up to £30,000 per offence, or a criminal prosecution with the risk of an unlimited fine. Landlords of unlicensed properties could also be forced to refund their tenants up to 12 months rent. Serious offenders can be banned from letting homes completely and placed on a rogue landlords database.

At the time of publication, it is unclear if the additional licence application process has yet started. Whilst Tower Hamlets have an online application system, it currently only refers to selective and mandatory HMO licensing. Landlords and agents may wish to contact the council direct to seek clarification.

With so many private rented properties in Tower Hamlets now requiring a licence, it is important to select the correct type of licence as the rules vary according to the location, type of property and occupancy arrangements. Licence conditions and application fees also vary according to the type of licence required.

A free guide to property licensing schemes in Tower Hamlets containing more detailed guidance is available on the London Property Licensing website here.

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