Redbridge Council to implement borough wide property licensing
Thousands more private rented properties look set to be licensed following a decision by Redbridge Council.
At a meeting on Tuesday 9 June 2015, Redbridge Council’s cabinet voted to implement borough-wide selective and additional licensing. The licensing schemes, covering over 20,000 private rented properties, are expected to go live in early 2016.
According to the council, the additional licensing scheme will apply to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), although there is no specific mention of Section 257 HMOs (certain converted blocks of flats). This is despite the government’s intention to consult on widening the existing mandatory HMO licensing criteria in the near future.
Redbridge Council says that licensing is needed to tackle a significant and persistent problem with anti-social behaviour associated with private rented homes, together with poor management standards in HMOs. They also highlight crime and inward migration as two other areas of concern.
The council is worried that rogue landlords driven out by licensing schemes in neighbouring boroughs could be displaced into Redbridge, particularly if rogue operators sense that the borough is more lightly regulated.
Yet research by London Property Licensing shows that Redbridge Council took 19 housing prosecutions over three years (2011 to 2014) using their existing enforcement powers, which is far more than Waltham Forest, Barking & Dagenham and Havering combined. Newham is the only council in East London taking more housing prosecutions (Source: LPL research).
The Cabinet report states that the licence application process will follow a self-assessment model as the council accept they do not have the resources to inspect all the properties or check all documentation. Instead, only a sample of properties will be inspected to try and crack down on rogue landlords.
The report outlines a package of other measures to accompany the licensing scheme including:
- Employing outreach officers to work with landlords and tenants;
- Developing a new landlord manual;
- A dedicated web-page for landlords, including sample letters and tenancy agreements; and
- A new landlord focus group.
Results from the consultation exercise
According to the Council’s report, 1,762 people took part in an online consultation exercise, of which 463 were landlords or agents. There was high support for selective and additional licensing amongst residents and tenants (79% and 84% respectively), whereas additional licensing was opposed by 48.5% of landlords and selective licensing was opposed by 82.7% of landlords.
The Council also arranged a doorstep survey of over 500 residents, of which 86% of respondents supported licensing.
Licence application fees and early-bird discount
Redbridge Council are proposing a £500 licence application fee, with an early bird discount of £250 for applications received in the first three months. Online applications would be encouraged and anyone submitting a hard copy application would be charged an extra £100.
The report notes that these fees are based on the borough wide selective licensing scheme being approved and that the fees for additonal licensing could be subject to change if the Secretary of State does not grant consent for the selective scheme.
Making an application to the Secretary of State
The process for approving the borough wide selective licensing designation is complicated by the recent legislative change that restricts councils’ ability to implement selective licensing schemes covering more than 20% of the area or 20% of private rented homes (see LPL news item on 1 April 2015).
This means that Redbridge Council must now apply to the Secretary of State for permission to implement a borough wide selective licensing scheme and it is far from certain what the outcome will be.
Commenting on the proposed new scheme, Richard Tacagni, Managing Director at London Property Licensing said: “Redbridge Council’s selective licensing application to the Secretary of State will be viewed with much interest by councils and landlord associations across the country.
“Following changes to the licensing general approval on 1 April 2015, the government now has the opportunity to decide whether the scheme can proceed, or whether the council should be sent back to the drawing board to come up with a smaller and more focused scheme. A decision is expected within 8 weeks of the application being submitted“.
A copy of the Redbridge Cabinet report and appendices, extending to over 250 pages, can be viewed on the Council’s website (see agenda item 18).
Further information about property licensing in Redbridge can be found at www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/redbridge