Tower Hamlets Council consulting on plans to renew their additional licensing scheme

Monday, February 27th, 2023 - Tower Hamlets Council

Tower Hamlets additional licensing consultation 2023

Tower Hamlets Council is consulting on plans to renew their additional licensing scheme that extends across much of the borough. The current scheme came into force on 1 April 2019 and is due to end on 31 March 2024.

The council currently operates three property licensing schemes. In addition to the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, there is an additional licensing scheme that applies to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) throughout the borough except for the pre 2014 wards of Weavers, Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Banglatown.

There is also a selective licensing scheme that applies to most private rented properties in pre 2014 wards of Weavers, Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Banglatown in the west of the borough.

According to the council, almost 6,000 additional licence applications have been received and about 25% of the properties have been inspected. The council’s inspection programme was placed on hold due to Covid restrictions which adversely impacted on inspection rates.

The council say 2,517 warning letters have been issued with 179 enforcement notices served. This suggests most issues have been resolved informally.

Whilst the consultation report notes 115 licences have been revoked, this could include licences revoked due to properties being sold, so it is difficult to draw conclusions.

Civil financial penalties for landlords are projected to generate just £29,500 income. Far higher enforcement has been undertaken against letting and managing agents. Civil penalties imposed for illegal letting fees and failure to belong to a redress scheme total over £400,000.

Additional licensing to be extended borough wide

One of the notable changes being proposed is to extend the next additional licensing scheme borough wide.

This will cause some transitional complications. In the west of the borough, some small HMOs are currently licensed under the selective licensing scheme. If additional licensing is extended borough wide, HMO landlords in the west of the borough could find they have the wrong type of licence and need to reapply.

Having both additional and selective licensing schemes in the west of the borough will also reduce flexibility in the market. Different licences will be needed depending on whether the property is let to a single household or small HMO, with no ability to transfer licences when the tenancy changes. This complication already arises in some other boroughs.

Licence fees well below average

Whilst paying licence application fees is never popular, the fees charged in Tower Hamlets are well below average when compared to all London Boroughs. The proposed new additional licensing fee for an online application is £600.50 per property for up to five years. This compares favourably to one London Borough that charge £506 per bedroom for the same licence.

The consultation on plans the renew the additional licensing scheme started on 12 December 2022 and continue until 31 March 2023. You can read the consultation documents and complete an online questionnaire by visiting the council’s website.

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

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