New additional licensing scheme launched in the London Borough of Waltham Forest

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020 -

A borough wide additional licensing scheme covering an estimated 6,000 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) has been launched in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

A public consultation took place from 4 February to 29 April 2019 and the scheme was approved by councillors at a Cabinet meeting on 11 July 2019 (read here).

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, safeagent in conjunction with London Property Licensing recently called on councils to delay new licensing schemes for six months (read here) and the government had advised councils to pause new schemes at an appropriate point (read here).

However, Waltham Forest Council made the scheme designation in July 2019 and decided to proceed with the new scheme which came into force on 1 April 2020.

The borough wide additional licensing scheme has extended HMO licensing to all house and flat shares occupied by three or more people who are not all related. So-called section 257 HMOs (certain buildings converted into self-contained flats) have been excluded from the scheme.

The council have introduced a new online application system with a standard licence application fee of £1,000 per property, payable in two instalments.

An early bird fee discount of £250 is being offered for all applications submitted by 31 October 2020. The original cut-off date of 31 July 2020 was extended in response to the COVID19 pandemic.

Rent Repayment Orders present a compliance risk

Whilst landlords and agents will welcome the longer early bird discount period, London Property Licensing is highlighting the ongoing compliance risk if licence applications are delayed.

With the scheme in force from 1 April 2020, landlords and agents who have not yet applied will find themselves in breach of the licensing scheme unless they can prove a defence of reasonable excuse.

Even if the council decide not to pursue enforcement action, the financial risk associated with Rent Repayment Orders remains. Tenants living in HMOs can apply to the First-tier Tribunal to reclaim rent they have paid between 1 April 2020 and the date the application is submitted, up to a maximum of 12 months.

With this in mind, London Property Licensing is encouraging landlords and agents to submit their licence applications as soon as possible.

Where this necessitates visiting the property, this will be further complicated by the need to avoid non-essential travel, observe social distancing and respect any tenants in self-isolation. The government have stressed the vital importance of good communication between landlords and tenants at this difficult time.

New selective licensing scheme starts 1 May 2020

Following a decision by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the London Borugh of Waltham Forest are also renewing their selective licensing scheme on 1 May 2020.

Whereas the previous selective licensing scheme applied borough wide, the new scheme will cover 18 out of 20 wards. The two wards excluded from the new selective licensing scheme are Hatch Lane and Endlebury (read here).

A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the London Borough of Waltham Forest is available here.

Whilst our normal licence application handling service is currently on hold due to COVID19, we can offer a lower cost desktop-only licence application service to assist during these challenging times. To find out more, please complete our online form (here) and we’ll contact you to discuss the options available.

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