Borough-wide licensing to tackle rogue landlords
A London council is to introduce the first borough-wide licensing scheme for private landlords to stamp out the letting of poor quality accommodation.
The Newham scheme will cover around 35,000 private tenancies and landlords who do not get licenses face fines of up to £20,000.
The local authority decided to go ahead with the move at a cabinet meeting last week after consulting with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies. Seventy-four per cent of residents and 76 per cent of private tenants supported the borough-wide licensing scheme.
The council believes it is the first council in England to do this.
Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales said: ‘It is clear from our consultation that our residents, including tenants in private sector homes, back our plans.
‘Good landlords have nothing to fear from this scheme. For the bad ones, this a clear message they must clean up their act - or pay the price.’
If private landlords register before the programme starts on 1 January 2013 they will pay £150 for a five-year licence but a full fee of £500 if they sign up after.
The council trailed the scheme in the borough’s Little Ilford neighbourhood improvement zone and achieved full compliance, after enforcement against a small number of landlords.
Homelessness charity Shelter is supporting the scheme. Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns, said: ‘With a chronic shortage of social housing and more and more people being priced out of the housing market, renting is fast becoming the only option for thousands more Londoners.
‘Our advice service for tenants in Newham sees people every day who are suffering at the hands of rogue landlords who are ignoring their responsibilities and wreaking havoc on tenants’ lives. We urge other local councils to follow Newham’s lead.’
But the umbrella organisation the National Landlords Association was ‘deeply disappointed’ with the move and said it had offered the council an alternative solution.
David Salusbury, chairman of the NLA said: ‘The NLA realises that there are significant issues present in Newham, which the council is right to want to address.
‘But, selective licensing of landlords is designed to address distinct problems relating to housing management by targeting specific areas.
‘Newham’s blanket approach goes beyond the intention of the legislation and has not gained the support of local landlords.’
He said the local authority would increase burdens on landlords who already comply with the law.