New property licensing schemes get the green light in Waltham Forest

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019 - Waltham Forest Council

On 11 July 2019, Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet approved plans for new property licensing schemes to be implemented when the current borough wide selective licensing scheme ends on 31 March 2020.

Following the consultation exercise that ended on 29 April 2019, the council have decided to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme that will apply to most Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) occupied by three or more people.

The council have also approved plans for a new selective licensing scheme covering the majority of the borough. The only wards to be excluded are Endlebury and Hatch Lane.

With more than 1 in 3 of the borough’s residents now renting in the private sector, the council want to implement both licensing schemes so that most privately rented homes will need to hold a licence in order to be legally let. Landlords will also need to comply with a set of licence conditions relating to the safety and proper management of rented homes in Waltham Forest.

The decision at Cabinet follows on from extensive consultation which attracted 2,415 responses from residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agents.

The Cabinet heard how more than 50% of residents/tenants agreed with the council’s proposal to reintroduce selective licensing. In addition to this, more than 50% of respondents said there would be a negative impact on anti-social behaviour and the condition and management of privately rented properties in the borough when the current scheme ended, without a new scheme in place.

Overall, almost 60% of respondents agreed with the council’s proposal to introduce borough wide additional licensing for most HMOs to regulate property conditions.

Additional licensing scheme

From 1 April 2020, most smaller HMOs that are currently regulated under the selective licensing scheme will instead require an additional licence which will impose a wider range of terms and conditions, including new absolute minimum bedroom sizes that apply to all HMOs licensed under an additional licensing scheme.

In setting the scheme criteria, the council have decided to exclude so-called section 257 HMOs (certain buildings converted into self-contained flats) from the additional licensing scheme. Instead, these properties would continue to require selective licences if they are within the designated selective licensing area.

The standard two-stage additional licensing fee will be set at £1,000 with various early bird, new build and multi-application discounts available.

Selective licensing approval process

With Cabinet approval in place, the council must now make a formal application to government to ratify the proposed selective licensing scheme.

Since 2015, all selective licensing schemes covering more than 20% of the borough require Secretary of State approval and the council must now seek consent before the scheme can be introduced.

If the scheme gets government approved, the intention is to charge a standard two-stage selective licensing fee of £700, with various early bird, new build and multi-application discounts available.

Subject to obtaining Secretary of State approval, the intention is to implement both schemes on 1 April 2020.

What impact has the current selective licensing scheme had?

The existing borough wide selective licensing scheme for privately rented properties came into force on 1 April 2015.

Since then the council say they have made some decisive interventions to safeguard the comfort and safety of tenants. The council has undertaken a range of strong enforcement interventions including:

  • issuing over 100 civil (financial) penalties;
  • issuing more than 40 interim management orders;
  • improving 3,000 privately rented properties; and
  • pursuing 94 successful prosecutions, resulting in more than £300,000 in court-imposed fines.

The current selective licensing scheme ends in March 2020 which is why the council has been reviewing what happens next.

Following the Cabinet meeting, Councillor Louise Mitchell and Deputy Leader Clyde Loakes, called on the housing minister to act decisively to protect vulnerable individuals and families living in private rented properties by supporting Waltham Forest in its successful approach by determining its submission for a new scheme quickly.

Councillor Louise Mitchell, Lead Member for Housing and Homelessness Prevention, said:

We have been at the forefront of protecting our residents living in the private rented sector by using our licensing scheme to effectively drive up standards. Licensing has the wide spread backing of key stakeholders who have seen first hand the difference it can make to the lives of residents.

While we have made tremendous progress in the last few years, there is still more work to do. With more of our residents now renting privately, it is so vitally important that we have the powers to tackle non-compliant landlords, who pay no regard to the rules and exploit vulnerable tenants by letting out overcrowded, unsuitable and dangerous properties.

It would be entirely wrong and a backward step for private renters rights if government was to deny us the right to continue with this effective scheme which tackles criminal landlords and protects vulnerable individuals and families within the private rented sector.

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

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