Westminster City Council has launched a raft of new measures in a bid to shake up its huge private rented sector.

The authority – which boasts the largest number of private rented properties in England with about 52,700 homes, 43% of all its housing stock – will start by consulting on a discretionary licencing scheme for all HMOs.

It also plans to review its enforcement policy and encourage more landlords and letting agents to sign up to its London Landlords Accreditation Scheme.

A private rented sector forum where landlords and letting agents can share best practice is planned, while Westminster has promised to offer support to its tenants, landlords and letting agents, and to help tenants take legal action against rogue landlords.

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Recent studies found that 13% of privately rented properties in the borough have at least one serious hazard which could endanger tenants, such as faulty electrical wiring, severe damp or mould.

Serious hazards

The analysis showed nearly half of HMOs are likely to have serious hazards.

The council already operates a Housing Standards Taskforce which has led to £80,000 in civil penalty fines and £200,000 in fines for landlords who let HMO properties without a licence.

Last month, it launched an online rent repayment checker for tenants to check if their HMO is licenced and to help them claim back rent.

Councillor Heather Acton, cabinet member for public protection and licensing, says: “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.”

Read more about Westminster City Council’s PRS schemes.

Advice: Are HMOs the way forward?

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