Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Mayor: Private Landlords must be Licensed

The voluntary accreditation of private landlords does not work and a mandatory licensing system is needed, the Mayor of Newham has said.

Newham Council became the first local authority in the country to introduce mandatory licensing of all private properties on January 1.

Around 15,000 landlords have signed up to the council's scheme so far, submitting around 28,500 applications for properties, representing a compliance of nearly 75 percent.

The council has now begun enforcement action against non-compliant landlords, who face fines of up to £20,000.

Speaking before a Commons select committee last week, Mayor Sir Robin Wales explained that a voluntary initiative the council ran before the mandatory system had a take-up rate of less than five percent.

Sir Robin said: "We want to work with good landlords, they have nothing to fear. It's the bad ones, the criminal landlords, that we're after.

"We will never accept private sector tenants being directly exploited by landlords who force them to live in dangerous and unacceptable conditions. One bad house can drag down a whole street.

"All the evidence - and we have tried it extensively - is voluntary accreditation simply doesn't work."

The council has said that it consulted extensively with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies over its mandatory scheme. Seventy-four percent of residents and 76 percent of private tenants supported it.

The move came after the borough announced the creation of a task force to combat 'beds in sheds' - illegal outbuildings built at the bottom of gardens which often house tenants living in appalling squalor. In just seven wards, Newham's enforcement team has investigated over 600 cases with over 500 'beds in sheds' now closed.

The scheme is backed by housing charity Shelter and other councils are now considering following Newham's lead.

Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, 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 in sending a clear signal that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority."