Tower Hamlets Council vary their selective licensing scheme designation

Monday, July 26th, 2021 - London Property Licensing

In May 2021, London Property Licensing reported that a replacement selective licensing scheme had been approved covering the west side of Tower Hamlets. The scheme will come into force on 1 October 2021 to coincide with the ending of the current scheme (read here).

Exemption for certain student accommodation blocks

When the new selective licensing designation was made, it contained an unusual exemption for private rented properties where the tenancy or licence had been granted by a student accommodation provider who had been accredited by Accreditation Network UK (ANUK).

The council report explained 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.

An exemption too far

In response to concerns raised about the validity of this student accommodation exemption, a further report was presented to the council’s Cabinet meeting on 30 June 2021. Having sought advice, council officers acknowledged there was no legal power for them to make this student accommodation exemption.

To keep the scheme within the 20% threshold for local approval, the report proposed a variation to the scheme designation. The student accommodation exemption would be removed. Instead, the council would exclude six postcodes that contained student accommodation blocks – E1 1ES, E1 1FA, E1 7HS, E1 8EU, E1 1LP, E1 1DQ.

The report explained that the six student developments the council wanted to exclude from the scheme were:

  • The Curve London – operated by the Student Housing Company
  • Chapter Aldgate and Chapter Spitalfields – operated by Chapter Living
  • Drapery Place – operated by Unite
  • Aldgate and Magenta House – operated by IQ Student Accommodation

The report noted that by following this approach, any other private rented properties in these six postcodes would also be exempt from selective licensing. In these areas, only the mandatory HMO licensing scheme would apply.

Cabinet accepted the recommendations and agreed to vary the scheme designation. An amended Public Notice was published a few days later.

Can a scheme designation be varied

It remains unclear whether an additional or selective licensing scheme designation can be varied in this way. There is no specific power to do so in the Housing Act 2004. The more usual course of action is for a local authority to revoke a scheme designation and make a new designation.

London Property Licensing is unaware of other scheme designations being varied and would welcome any observations from legal advisors, central or local government. Any comments can be sent to

A free guide containing more information about property licensing in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is available here. Our guide contains both the original and amended selective licensing public notices.

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