Council documents have revealed that so far only 2.6% of landlords who operate Homes of Multiple Occupation across Greenwich Borough have so far registered.
According to the council:
168 license applications had been received and 26 licenses issued. The number of applications represents 2.6% of the total number of HMOs that need to be licensed, based on the estimate of 6500 HMOs in the borough. An additional 1.7% (111) were already licensed under the statutory schemethat was in place before October 1st 2017
Since October all landlords of HMOs have needed to register in the borough after a large number of issues found on inspections. Discounts apply to landlords until 18th March.
The report also states:
Since the start of the project the team have visited 2695 properties and responded to 1404 complaints regarding poor conditions. Over 2500 HHSRS hazards have been identified. 1098 Category one hazards requiring immediate rectification and 1501 category two hazards requiring remedial action
The rapid growth of people in private rentals, often forced on people by a severe shortage of social housing and extremely high house prices mean that 29% of households now rent privately across Greenwich borough.
Of the total number of private rental properties, 20% are estimated to be HMOs with rooms let out individually. This is also a way for landlords to maximise income from Housing Benefit (or Housing Allowance as it’s now known) which costs the taxpayer big.
Councils can now fine landlords £30,000 per offence. This is likely to yield far greater income than prosecution, with feeble fines often handed out that are little disincentive when rental income can exceed the fine in a short number of months.
Greenwich council’s program of seeking out HMOs has come in for criticism. On one occasion recently they placed signs on streets in an area inspections were taking place as well as broadcasting that online.
Presumably they thought it was a good bit of PR but it allowed landlords to know what was happening and tell tenants to keep quiet.
They’ve also recently mistakenly sent out letters to homeowners or tenants in homes that aren’t HMOs.
However if landlords do hide and are caught they must pay a 30% excess charge above standard HMO license costs, face potential prosecution or fines and in some cases ordered to pay the previous year’s rental income to the local authority.
It’ll be interesting to see how many rogue landlords are pursued in this way.
Greenwich is one of the more conservative authorities when it comes to regulating private landlords. They adopted powers many years after other London authorities, and though they now have HMO licensing, they have not adopted licensing for other private rental properties.
Lewisham Council recently agreed to cover 20% of other private rental properties in addition to HMOs in the worst wards for housing issues, in what is known as selective licensing, and Bexley are consulting upon doing so.