News

Harrow Council to implement a selective licensing scheme

Monday, July 20, 2015

A new selective licensing scheme covering private rented properties in Harrow Council’s Edgware ward looks set to be introduced on 1 November 2015.

The decision was made at Harrow Council’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 14 July 2015. The scheme will extend licensing to private rented properties in Edgware ward that are let out to a single person, couple or single household.

The Council say it is intended as a pilot scheme and two other areas (Wealdstone and South Harrow) have already been identified where selective licensing schemes may be introduced in the future.

Harrow Council say that licensing will help to tackle a significant and persistent problem with anti-social behaviour (ASB) associated with private rented homes. Research by the council found that Edgware suffered from high levels of deliberate fires, above average rates for serious crime and ASB, high levels of fly-tipping and noise nuisance. They say that the scheme is in line with their corporate priorities of making a difference to residents, community, businesses and the vulnerable.

Harrow Council is proposing a £550 licence application fee, with a discount of £75 for accredited landlords and a further discount of £50 for application received before the licensing scheme starts.

Results from the consultation exercise

According to the Council’s report, a consultation exercise was carried out from 1 November 2014 to 30 April 2015 and included door-to-door surveys within the local area.

Of the 5,389 properties visited, 1,414 were found to be owner occupied and no access was gained to 2,853 (53%). Of the rest, 550 private rented properties were identified that would fall within the selective licensing scheme.

The council say that landlords were consulted at an Edgware Forum meeting on 7 January 2015 and a landlord form on 20 April 2015 and there was significant support for the proposals from all interested parties, including landlords. However, the report also shows that just 11 paper surveys and 4 online surveys were completed by landlords and managing agents. The survey also attracted responses from about 380 residents (including tenants) and over 20 local businesses.

Response from the National Landlords Association

Commenting on Harrow Council’s intention to implement Selective Licensing, Gavin Dick, Local Authority Policy Officer, National Landlords Association (NLA), said:

Selective Licensing can be an effective tool for councils in improving standards in housing when carried out properly and fully resourced.

However, more and more councils have abused the power to push through unnecessary licensing schemes.  The burden of these schemes will be shouldered by reputable landlords who will feel compelled to comply with the heavy-handed regulation.

Councils increasingly appear to think that Selective Licensing is the answer to problems such as anti-social behaviour. Yet, in reality, landlords do not generally cause the anti-social behaviour and have limited powers to curb it when it occurs in their properties. Essentially all a landlord can do is to not renew the tenancy; this does not solve the problems and will just move the issue around the area.

It is therefore questionable as to how licensing property is going to affect the behaviour of tenants. Instead, councils have far greater powers to deal with anti-social behaviour and these powers should be utilised.

Tenants will also most likely have the cost of the licence passed on to them as landlords who choose to not absorb the increased costs themselves will have to pass it on as higher rents; these scheme are costly for everyone.

A copy of the Harrow Council selective licensing report can be viewed on the Council’s website.

Further information about property licensing in Harrow can be found at www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/harrow.
 

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