The London borough of Newham is to license all private landlords from January 1, 2013.
The licensing scheme, unique in England and Wales, will cover an estimated 35,000 private tenancies, representing one in three of all the borough’s households. Newham Council made the decision after consulting extensively with residents, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies: 74% of residents and 76% of private tenants supported the scheme.
Private landlords will pay £150 for a five-year licence if they register before the end of this year, otherwise the full fee is £500. Landlords who fail to get a licence face fines of up to £20,000.
Licensing of landlords had already been piloted on a small scale in the borough’s Little Ilford Neighbourhood Improvement Zone which achieved 100% compliance following enforcement action against a small number of non-compliant landlords.
Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: “It is clear from our consultation that our residents, including tenants in private sector homes, back our plans.
“This scheme shows that Newham is leading the country when it comes to tackling bad landlords who flout the law.
“We want to ensure that private sector rented properties are well managed and meet a good standard. We also want to deal with the crime and anti-social behaviour that is sometimes associated with bad private sector rented housing. “There are good landlords in Newham and we want to work with them. Unfortunately there are also some unscrupulous ones, which these proposals would target.”
Sir Robin added: “Good landlords have nothing to fear from this scheme. For the bad ones, this a clear message they must clean up their act – or pay the price.
“One bad house can drag down a whole street. We are doing this for the community.”
National housing charity Shelter has urged other councils to follow Newham’s lead.
Kay Boycott, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns, said: “We are delighted that Newham Council will be introducing this scheme, which will help protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords who are making their tenants’ lives hell.
“With a chronic shortage of social housing and more and more people being priced out of the housing market, renting is fast becoming the only option for thousands more Londoners. Our advice service for tenants in Newham sees people every day who are suffering at the hands of rogue landlords who are ignoring their responsibilities and wreaking havoc on tenants’ lives.
“We urge other local councils to follow Newham’s lead in sending a clear signal that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority.”