Greenwich Council are looking to follow other authorities and expand private landlord licensing into areas with problematic landlords and antisocial problems.
The wider licensing will predominantly cover Woolwich and Plumstead.
Income from the project is ringfenced to monitor conditions with private rentals and investigate problems arising from increased buy to let, including poor maintenance of homes and gardens and issues such as fly tipping.
Scare stories are already being made about rent increases yet there’s no evidence this occurred with recent changes to other licensing schemes nor after the Tenant Fee ban in 2019. Landlords continually claim tenants will suffer if they are regulated. It doesn’t happen. Then the same claims are made six months later. If landlords could simply increase rents they already would – but the market cannot sustain it.
Fines for landlords who fail to register is set at £30,000 per offence. Councils also have powers to collect rents so tenants are not kicked out if the landlord is fined. However, will that actually happen?
Greenwich have lagged many boroughs with licensing and so far only adopted licensing of Homes of Multiple Occupation landlords. The deadline to register was over town years ago yet just 15 per cent of estimated landlords have done so.
I’ve covered HMOs in the borough that have operated for years before applying for planning permission. They were not listed on the council’s HMO register.
Rapid growth in private tenants
The original adoption of HMO licensing came after inspections funded by the Home Office found a huge range of issues with the private rented sector in the borough, which has seen exponential growth over the past 20 years.
Inspections in 2015/16 found:
“as at 5 January 2016 the following had been achieved: 1,219 properties have been visited by Intelligence Officers with 460 found to be HMOs. This has resulted in nearly 1,000 enforcement investigations.
Over 1,770 hazards and breaches of legislation have been identified during the inspections.”
Borough-wide licensing was halted by the Conservative Government and now a borough can only license 20 per cent of properties in addition to HMO. Licensing in Newham borough discovered tax evasion from private landlords on a huge scale. It was estimated that 50 per cent of landlords were not declaring income and underpaying £200 million in just that one borough alone.
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