Tower Hamlets Council approve new selective licensing scheme with an unusual exemption for some student accommodation

Monday, May 24th, 2021 - Tower Hamlets Council

At a Cabinet meeting on 28 April 2021, Tower Hamlets Council approved plans for a replacement selective licensing scheme in the west of the borough.

A selective licensing scheme was previously implemented on 1 October 2016 and continues until 30 September 2021. The current scheme extends licensing to all private rented properties in Whitechaple, Weavers, Spitalfields and Banglatown, based on the council ward boundaries that existed pre 22 May 2014.

According to the council, about 7,404 properties have been licensed under the current selective licensing scheme. The council have undertaken 2,745 visits and served 311 enforcement notices. Almost £75,000 of civil financial penalties have been issued and 95 tenants have been helped to claim an estimated £280,000 in Rent Repayment Orders.

Public consultation

A public consultation on plans to renew the selective licensing scheme took place from 28 August to 13 December 2020 (read here).

According to the Cabinet report, 379 responses were received, with the majority from landlords and agents:

  • 287 responses from landlords / agents, with 85% opposed to scheme renewal.
  • 84 responses from residents / tenants with 71.2% supporting scheme renewal.
  • 7 responses from local businesses, 4 of whom supported scheme renewal.

A further 22 people attended virtual consultation events.

Having reflected on the feedback, the council decided not to extend the selective licensing scheme into new areas. Instead, the council have decided to renew the scheme based on the same geographical area. The new scheme will start on 1 October 2021 and continue for five years.

Exemption for certain student accommodation blocks

In an unexpected move, the council have decided to exclude student accommodation from the selective licensing scheme if the tenancy or licence has been granted by a student accommodation provider who has been accredited by Accreditation Network UK (ANUK). According to the council, these developments are well managed, of a high standard, have 24 hours concierge and do not require selective licensing.

The report explains that if these developments had been included, it would have pushed the size of the scheme above the 20% threshold, meaning government approval was needed before the council could implement the scheme. By exempting these accommodation providers, the council say this brings the scheme within the 20% threshold and no government approval is required.

It remains to be seen whether any other accommodation providers may decide to challenge this decision. London Property Licensing believe this is the first such selective licensing exemption in London.

Licensing fees

To coincide with the new licensing scheme, the cost of new selective licence applications will increase from £542 to £595 per property. Licence renewals will be charged at a lower fee of £495.

A free guide containing more information about property licensing in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is available here.

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