Brent Council says it is aiming is to drive up standards in the private rental sector and better protect tenants from poor rental accommodation through its borough wide licensing schemes.
The Brent scheme, which was introduced on 1 January 2015, is a borough-wide additional licensing scheme that requires all Houses in Multiple Occupation to be licensed. They also introduced a selective licensing scheme that extends licensing to all private rented properties in the council wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central and Willesden Green.
Private landlords in Brent are forced to pay £340 (£540 for HMOs) to subscribe to a compulsory five-year licensing scheme after council chiefs gave the go ahead.
The Council has now received over 5,000 applications from landlords needing to have their Brent private rented properties licensed and to-date, around 4,000 licence applications have been approved.
The remaining 1,000 or so applications are currently being processed and the Council claims that by rolling out property licensing, they can drive up standards in the private rental sector and better protect tenants from poor quality rented accommodation.
Going forward, landlords caught without the required property licence will have to pay an extra £300 fee on top of the standard application fee. Landlords also run the risk of being taken to court by the authority and prosecuted in the Magistrates Court, where they could face an unlimited fine.
Some prosecutions have already taken place for failure to licence, as previously reported by London Property Licensing. One landlord, Douglas Gerard-Reynolds, has been fined twice for not having the required license for his properties on Lechmere Road and Anson Road and has been ordered to pay a total of over £10,000.
Councillor Margaret McLennan, Lead Member for Housing and Development at Brent Council told London Property Licensing:
“It is fantastic to reach this milestone of 5,000 applications but there are still many more rental properties in Brent that need a licence.
“We want to work with the good landlords to drive out the minority of bad ones and so I thank all of those landlords who have already shown their co-operation and submitted their applications to us.
“If you live next to a House in Multiple Occupation or are a tenant in one which you think is unlicensed, please do get in contact with the council’s Private Housing Licensing Team and help us increase the number of licensed properties in Brent.
Whilst the milestone of 5,000 applications marks an important step forward, it does suggest about 70% of landlords have not yet applied for a licence.
In January 2015, Brent Council told London Property Licensing that they expected to receive about 14,000 additional licence applications and 3,000 selective licence applications. Brent Council face an immense task in tracking down the remaining 10,000+ unlicensed properties.
For further information on property licensing requirements in Brent, visit www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/brent
Sections 79, 80 and 81 of the Housing Act 2004 provided for the introduction of a scheme of selective licensing of private landlords in a local housing authority’s area. Selective licensing is intended to address the impact of poor quality private landlords and anti-social tenants. It has primarily been developed with the need to tackle problems in areas of low housing demand in mind – although the Act also allows for selective licensing in some other circumstances and some boroughs have opted for borough wide schemes affecting all landlords. Many of the provisions relating to selective licensing are similar to those relating to the mandatory and discretionary licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – regimes which were also introduced by the 2004 Act.
In an area subject to selective licensing, all private landlords must obtain a licence and if they fail to do so, or fail to achieve acceptable management standards, the authority can take enforcement action – e.g., issuing a fine of up to £20,000 or in some cases, assuming management control of the property. The London Borough of Newham introduced a selective licensing scheme covering all private rented properties in the borough in January 2013 – a number of authorities have followed suit. Increased interest in licensing appears to be directly linked to the growth of the sector (now the second largest tenure in England).
The Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into the private rented sector (2012-13) considered the operation of selective licensing and recommended that the Government should bring forward proposals for a reformed approach. In the February 2014 consultation paper, Review of Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector, the Government criticised borough-wide licensing schemes and expressed a preference for voluntary accreditation.
Brandon Lewis (the Minister) wrote to all local authorities on 11 March 2015 advising that, from 1 April 2015, local authorities will have to seek confirmation from the Secretary of State for any selective licensing scheme which would cover more than 20% of their geographical area or would affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area. However, this does not apply retrospectively.