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Why stop for the virus? Council presses ahead with licensing anyway

A London council has pressed ahead with the launch of a borough-wide additional licensing scheme despite the lockdown and uncertainty created by the Coronavirus outbreak.

The London Property Licensing service reports that Waltham Forest borough council has started the scheme, which applies to some 6,000 HMOs. 

It was thought that many authorities launching licensing schemes or extensions to existing schemes would hold fire until the pandemic was under control; the government, the trade group safeagent and London Property Licensing itself, have called on councils too defer new schemes as appropriate.


However, Waltham Forest - which originally approved its new licensing system last July - has pressed ahead anyway.

Its new additional scheme extends HMO licensing to all house and flat shares occupied by three or more people who are not all related. So-called section 257 HMOs - certain buildings converted into self-contained flats - have been excluded from the scheme.

The council has introduced a new online application system with the standard licence application fee of £1,000 per property, payable in two instalments; there are also early-bird discounts.

London Property Licensing reports that landlords and agents who have not yet applied will find themselves in breach of the licensing scheme unless they can prove a defence of reasonable excuse.

It says: “Even if the council decide not to pursue enforcement action, the financial risk associated with Rent Repayment Orders remains. Tenants living in HMOs can apply to the First-tier Tribunal to reclaim rent they have paid between 1 April 2020 and the date the application is submitted, up to a maximum of 12 months.”

You can see the London Property Licensing report here.

And another council has done the same thing - Coventry intends to bring in a licensing scheme from May 4. 

The National Residential Landlords Association has written to the Council asking it to defer.

The NRLA’s policy director Chris Norris says: “The guidelines are there to protect tenants and landlords from unnecessary contact. Where a licensing scheme is introduced, landlords have to go into their properties to check that they meet the licensing obligation and maybe need to carry out non-essential works. This exposes them and the tenants to an enhanced risk of contagion.

“Several local authorities have done the right thing and paused the introduction of new licensing schemes in response to the crisis including Luton and Newcastle and we are asking Coventry to do the same. It would be thoroughly irresponsible of the Council to ignore the guidelines and go ahead with their plans.”

  • Mark Wilson

    What happened to the common sense approach based on where we are? With licence fees at a £1,000 pop however, it looks like nice business, and revenues will be down from parking tickets.

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    • 17 April 2020 09:55 AM

    So basically this bonkers scheme hits every letting that ISN'T a single household letting.
    Two unrelated people can rarely afford rents for a two bed property in Waltham Forest.

    Usually 3 are needed.
    Any 3 bed property is pretty pointless now unless a single household letting.
    Why bother buying in Waltham Forest!?
    Go a mile down the road and you are into Redbridge which DOESN'T have a blanket licensing scheme.
    Nicer area to.
    LL will need to increase rents to cover the costs of this scheme.
    Will that be possible in the present climate!!?
    Another area that LL now need to avoid and possibly disinvest in.

    Richard Tacagni MCIEH

    Redbridge Council have also introduced borough wide additional licensing for all HMOs. The scheme started in 2017.

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    • 17 April 2020 15:38 PM

    Oh! Dear it seems it is now a question of where this ridiculous licensing ISN'T in force.

    No way would I invest in any area where these stupid licensing schemes are in force.
    Single lettings are unviable in lots of cases and with additional licensing that really kills the unrelated sharer letting where there are more than 2 unrelated sharers.
    Makes certain business models unviable.
    It seems to keep costs low LL will need to just use single household lettings.
    For many LL such lettings AREN'T viable.
    LL will need to sell such properties.

    Of course it is always possible that 3 or 4 unrelated sharers could become an item.
    Will Councils come round to check whether all the beds are warm in the morning!?
    Can't see how Councils can disprove two of 3 or 4 unrelated sharers saying they AREN'T in a relationship!

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    Landlords in Licensed areas need to Publicise to local Authorities that have ceased taking tenants on Benefit.
    That will cost the L.A far more than they make in Licensing fee's, and would pretty much stop any other L.A's implementing licensing
    Its just landlords are not Co-ordinated or organised and don't have a National voice


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