Westminster launches consultation on draft strategy to raise standards for tenants

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020 - Westminster City Council

A new draft strategy has been launched by Westminster City Council to help protect tenants who rent privately and ensure they live in good quality and well managed properties.

Westminster has the largest number of private rented properties in England with around 52,700 properties rented privately. This is 43% of all of Westminster’s housing stock and the number has grown significantly in the past decade.

Recent analysis of the sector carried out by the council found that 13% of private rented properties in Westminster (almost 6,800 homes) have at least one serious hazard which could endanger tenants such as faulty electrical wiring, severe damp or mould, excessive cold or fire safety breaches.

The analysis showed nearly half of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are likely to have serious hazards. The council receives about 1,600 complaints a year about poor housing conditions in the private sector and the impact of poor-quality housing on residents’ safety, health and wellbeing is significant.

To ensure every private rented home in Westminster is of good quality, the council’s new private rented sector strategy aims to:

  • Improve conditions in the private rented sector. The council have said they intend to consult on plans for a licencing scheme covering all HMOs.
  • Review the council’s housing enforcement policy and work with the sector to increase the number of landlords and letting agents signing up to the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (LLAS).
  • Provide support for tenants, landlords and letting agents to ensure all parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Assist tenants in taking legal action against rogue landlords.
  • Investigating energy efficiency grants for landlords housing vulnerable people.
  • Set up a private rented sector forum that brings together all landlords and letting agents so knowledge and best practice can be shared.

Westminster will also continue to lobby government for a national register of landlords and letting agencies. They also want the existing Rogue Landlord Database extended and for tenants’ rights to be simply explained as part of their licence or tenancy agreement.

Cllr Heather Acton, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing said:

The safety and protection of our communities will always be our primary concern. Most privately rented properties are high quality with landlords that play by the rules, but we know that a minority let properties that do not meet the required safety standards, and put residents’ lives, health and wellbeing at risk.

“We want tenants, landlords and letting agents to be aware of their rights and responsibilities so we can raise standards in the sector as high as possible. Our new policy sets measures designed to ensure Westminster’s private rented sector is well managed, operating within the law and above all else, safe for the people living here.

The council already operates a Housing Standards Taskforce which comprises officers with enforcement skills in environmental health, trading standards, and analysts to provide intelligence necessary to take cases forward.

The team was set up to protect vulnerable residents by investigating landlords and letting agents who flout the rules or provide tenants with sub-standard homes. The taskforce has already resulted in around £80,000 in civil penalties and £200,000 in fines for landlords who let HMO properties without the correct licence. More information about the taskforce can be found here.

According to the council’s website, a public consultation on the draft strategy is running until 25 October 2020. More information about the draft strategy and how to take part in the consultation, including details of two online events, is available here.

A free guide containing more detailed information about property licensing in the City of Westminster is available here.

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