Wednesday, 27 June 2012

English Council to License All Landlords

The London borough of Newham is to become the first local authority in England to license all private landlords. The programme is due to come into force on 1 January, 2013.

The council claims it has consulted extensively with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies. Newham claims that seventy-four per cent of residents and 76 per cent of private tenants supported the borough-wide licensing scheme. Interestingly there appear to be no figures available on how many landlords support the scheme.

Private landlords will pay £150 for a five year license if they register before 1 January, 2013. Otherwise the full fee is £500. Landlords who fail to license face fines of up to £20,000.

As we have reported on this News Blog previously many other local authorities have been watching the Newham experiment carefully and many plan to introduce a similar scheme.

Newham have no plans to introduce any licensing of tenants, so the clear inference is that all the housing problems in the borough are the fault of landlords. Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales said: "This scheme shows that Newham is leading the country when it comes to tackling bad landlords who flout the law.

"We want to ensure that private sector rented properties are well managed and meet a good standard. We also want to deal with the crime and anti-social behaviour that is sometimes associated with bad private sector rented housing.”

This view was, unsurprisingly, supported by the charity Shelter who urged other councils to follow Newham’s lead. Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: "We are delighted to hear that Newham Council will be introducing this scheme, which will help protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords who are making their tenants' lives hell.

"We urge other local councils to follow Newham's lead in sending a clear signal that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority."

Kay Boycott failed to mention that Newham already has around 70 pieces of legislation it could use to tackle ‘rogue landlords’. Neither the council nor Shelter offered any explanation as to why they are not already using existing legislation to tackle the perceived problem.

So the real question is exactly why does Newham feel it needs to charge landlords? Could it be that Newham’s decision is a ‘nice little earner’ for the council? According to their own figures if every landlord registers before the 1st January deadline Newham stand to raise in the region of £5.25 million. They will raise considerably more if landlords are late with their applications.

The Scottish Government already has mandatory landlord licensing and the Welsh Government has said it will also introduce landlord licensing. However, unlike Scotland or Wales, it seems that landlord licensing in England will come into effect council by council with each council able to set its own tariff.

Have your say about Newham’s decision: