Selective landlord licensing to be introduced in Tower Hamlets

Friday, February 5th, 2016 -

Tower Hamlets Council look set to introduce a selective licensing scheme following a decision at the Council’s Cabinet meeting earlier this week (2 February 2016). The Council say they are implementing the new scheme in order to tackle significant and persistent problems with anti-social behaviour associated with private rented homes.

Private rented homes to be licensed in three council wards

Having carried out a 12 week public consultation from March to July 2015, the council has decided to implement a selective licensing scheme covering the three council wards of Weavers; Whitechaple and Spitalfields and Banglatown, in the west of the borough.

To make matters more complicated, the scheme will be based on the ward boundaries as they existed pre-22 May 2014, meaning landlords and letting agents will need to take extra care when seeing if the scheme applies to them.

The Council received 199 responses to the public consultation, of which there was a fairly even split between landlords and tenants. The majority of landlords were opposed to the selective licensing scheme whilst the majority of tenants were in favour.

The licensing scheme was originally intended to cover a larger area, but has been scaled back following the Government’s decision to restrict larger schemes. Since 1 April 2015, councils have been unable to implement selective licensing schemes covering more than 20% of the borough or more than 20% of private rented homes, without obtaining approval from the Secretary of State. Many council’s seem reluctant to seek such approval after the government rejected Redbridge Council’s application for borough-wide selective licensing.

5,900 properties will need to be licensed

In Tower Hamlets, certain larger multiple occupied properties already need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

The new selective licensing scheme will extend licensing to almost every private rented property within the scheme boundary. There are very few statutory exemptions. The scheme is expected to cover about 5,900 private rented homes and is likely to come into force on 1 October 2016. The scheme would last for five years.

Licence Fees

According to the Cabinet report, the licence application fee will be set at between £520 and £660 per property for a five-year licence. There is no mention of any discount for accredited landlords, although they are still considering whether to offer a discount for early applications.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:

This scheme is an important step in helping to protect the rights of Tower Hamlets tenants who live in the private rented sector. We are working hard to increase the number of homes in the borough across all tenures but want to make sure that this is not at the expense of good quality dwellings.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, Statutory Deputy Mayor and cabinet member for housing management and performance, added:

It is vital that landlords in the borough are committed to renting out their properties within the confines of the law.

The introduction of our new selective licensing scheme ensures that landlords who rent out their properties take all the steps required of them to protect tenants. Our scheme will enable long term stable tenancies which will be beneficial for both landlords and tenants.

Glenn McMahon, a member of campaign and support group Tower Hamlets Renters, said:

We’re really pleased that Tower Hamlets will finally see a licensing scheme implemented, but disappointed it’s limited to 20 per cent of the borough due to legislative changes made by the last government.

However, we’re glad to hear Tower Hamlets Council will seek to introduce borough-wide licensing for private renters living in shared accommodation at the earliest opportunity. Everyone deserves to live in a safe and secure environment and licensing is another step on the road towards that.

Richard Tacagni, Managing Director at London Property Licensing said:

It is good to see Tower Hamlets have chosen a smaller more targeted licensing scheme so they can concentrate their resources on achieving more meaningful results.

However, it is disappointing that they have not taken the opportunity to offer lower licensing fees to accredited landlords and letting agents who have signed up to the London Rental Standard. Hopefully this is something they will reconsider before the scheme is launched.

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