Property licensing rules have changed in the Royal Borough of Greenwich – what are the implications for private landlords?
London Property Licensing is warning landlords and agents about important changes to licensing rules in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
On 30 September 2022, Greenwich Council’s borough wide additional licensing scheme ended after five years. Whilst the scheme was originally expected to license about 7,500 properties a report to Cabinet indicated that just 26% of the expected licence applications had been received (read here).
Licences approved under the old scheme will remain in force until the expiry date on the licence, unless a landlord makes an application to revoke the licence.
If landlords submitted and paid for licence applications that were not approved before the scheme ended, the council’s website acknowledges these landlords may be eligible for a fee refund.
Whilst Greenwich Council have indicated they intend to implement a replacement scheme in April 2023, they must first undertake a public consultation with all interested parties for at least 10 weeks. Following the consultation, if councillors decide to implement the scheme, they must publish a scheme designation giving at least three months’ notice.
Meanwhile, a selective licensing scheme covering part of the borough came into force on 1 October 2022. According to the council, they promoted the new licensing scheme in the London Gazette and Greenwich Weekender in April, May and June 2022 and also notified everyone who took part in the consultation.
The new scheme applies to parts of Plumstead, Glyndon, Shooters Hill, Woolwich Common and Woolwich Riverside council wards and extends licensing to all private rented properties within the designated area.
Whilst the scheme is predominately for properties occupied by a single family or two unrelated sharers, the situation is made more complicated now the council’s additional licensing scheme has ended. It means HMOs not already licensed under the mandatory HMO or additional licensing schemes may now require licensing under this new scheme.
How long do landlords have to submit licence applications?
Greenwich Council have said they will offer an early bird licence fee discount for all applications submitted by 31 December 2022. They have also told London Property Licensing they will not take enforcement action for failure to apply for a selective licence during the first six months of the scheme.
Whilst there is no immediate threat of enforcement action, the same cannot be said for Rent Repayment Orders. With the licence application system launched just a few days before the scheme started, landlords have not yet had time to apply, particularly as the council say DBS certificates must be obtained and submitted with every application.
All landlords and agents who did not apply for a licence by 1 October 2022 are now in breach of the licensing scheme. Tenants can apply for Rent Repayment Orders to claim back all rent paid between 1 October 2022 and the date the application is submitted.
Landlords in the designated area have also lost the ability to evict their tenants using a section 21 notice of seeking possession until either they apply for a licence or apply for a temporary exemption.
Commenting on the new scheme, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement, Cllr Ann-Marie Cousins said:
“We know that the majority of our landlords are trustworthy and compliant. The new selective licensing scheme strengthens our resolve in challenging the minority of landlords imposing unacceptable tenancy agreements and conditions on renters, often leading to the exploitation of vulnerable tenants.”
If a landlord or agent fails to submit a licence application, or obtains a licence but breaches the conditions, a range of sanctions may apply, including prosecution or civil penalty fees of up to £30,000.
Our free guide containing more information about property licensing and HMO planning restrictions in the Royal Borough of Greenwich is available here.
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