05 Jun 23

The Labour Mayor of Newham in London has called for a vast extension of landlord licensing.

Rokhsana Fiaz says she welcomes a call for the proliferation of licensing regimes made by a think tank, the Centre for London.

Fiaz describes he council as “the national pioneer in Private Rented Sector licensing” acting in what she calls “a totally broken housing market.”

She complains that her council needs to consult with the government over licensing, and says: “Despite its recognised success, since 2015 the council has been forced to seek government approval for its scheme every five years, which is a highly costly and bureaucratic process, and takes funding and resources away from our ability to enforce and improve standards.

“I back calls for private rental sector licensing powers to be devolved to local authorities like Newham, who know their own housing markets and how best to regulate them. There must also be a substantial increase in trained staff and funding to local authorities to allow effective enforcement of the PRS.

“Any Property Portal for a National Landlord register, as referred to in the recent Renters Reform Bill proposals, must be designed to work alongside – and in tandem with – local authority licensing schemes and not replace them.”

Newham’s last Licensing Scheme (which expired at the end of February 2023) saw 42,000 properties licensed – of which 70 per cent were subject to officer visits or audits. And the council claims that since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, an average of 800 licensing compliance inspections have been undertaken each month to check on property conditions, safety and management.

Newham’s new licensing scheme, which covers the whole borough (with the exception of Stratford Olympic Park and Royal Victoria Wards) went live yesterday  the cost of a full Selective Licence is £750. 

The Centre for London claims to have “a unique London-first point of view” which “allows us to find fresh connections between issues and understand how they shape Londoners’ lives.”

In a report on the private rental sector it demands three radical changes to be made by the government.

“1. Reinstate local authorities’ ability to introduce selective licensing schemes independently, by revoking the provision of the 2015 General Approval that required confirmation from the Secretary of State for schemes covering 20 per cent or more of the borough. To complement this, the government should legislate an advisory role for combined authorities and the Greater London Assembly to promote the good design, harmonisation, and rationalisation of schemes, and to protect local authorities from vexatious judicial reviews. Councils outside of combined authorities should be consulted on alternative ways of fulfilling this advisory function.”

“2. Invest in the local authority housing enforcement workforce to address the shortage of qualified personnel. This should include increasing funding for apprenticeships and graduate traineeships, as well as exploring the potential for a Housing Skills Centre to train future enforcement staff.”

“3. Allow local authorities to enforce problems with property conditions through selective licensing. This would require amending the Housing Act 2004 to allow hazards within the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS), which are currently governed by Part 1 of the Housing Act, to be regulated through the selective licensing system. This would remove the inefficiencies related to the 24-hour notice period required for HHSRS inspections, and could also enable councils to attach works conditions to selective licences related to Part 1 issues – so that their continuation can be made conditional on landlords making improvements to the property.”

You can read the full report here.

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