Newham

Council winning war against rogue landlords, new figures show

27 August 2013 in Housing
The war against rogue landlords is being won by Newham Council, according to new figures. They also reveal a staggering one in five unlicensed properties in the borough have been found to harbour suspected criminals.​
Newham is the first council in the country to implement a mandatory scheme to license all private rented properties. The trail-blazing scheme came into force on 1 January this year - but landlords were given a month's extension before it took
effect. Over 30,000 licence applications have been received and more than 22,000 have been issued. *

Early applicants normally paid £150 for up to a five-year licence if they registered before 31 January this year. Otherwise the full fee is £500 (for up to a five year licence).Private landlords who have failed to apply are committing an offence - and could face fines of up to £20,000 per property.

This month (August), the council has released new figures which reveal that, since the beginning of February:

• 2320 properties targeted with warning letters - 50% licensed after their first letter.

• 63 multi-agency operations to tackle multiple unlicensed and poor property management have been carried out.

• 110  legal cases are currently ongoing against criminal landlords, including;
     o 67 prosecutions, for failure to license and HMO (House of Multiple
        Occupation) management regulation offences. 
     o 43 cautions and £300 enforcement charges have been issued for lower level
        failure-to-license offences

• In addition, at least 110 arrests have been made by police (for alleged offences including immigration, drug dealing, Grievous Bodily Harm, theft, fraud and harassment offences)

The council has consulted extensively with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies. Seventy-four per cent of residents and 76 per cent of private tenants supported the borough-wide licensing scheme.
 
The radical move comes after the borough announced the creation of a task force to combat 'sheds with beds'. These are illegal ramshackle buildings built at the bottom of gardens which often house tenants living in appalling squalor, exploited by rogue landlords.
 
The council is determined to stamp out crime and anti-social behaviour associated with bad housing.
 
The scheme is backed by national housing charity Shelter and other councils are considering following Newham's lead.
 
This pioneering initiative has already been successfully piloted on a small scale in the borough's Little Ilford Neighbourhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). The pilot scheme achieved 100% compliance following enforcement action against a 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, massively 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: "We will never accept private sector tenants being directly exploited by landlords who force them to live in dangerous and unacceptable conditions.
 
"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."
 
Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: "We are delighted to hear that Newham Council is 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."
 
For further information go to:
www.newham.gov.uk/propertylicensing

* This refers to the number of applications, not the number of landlords, as many landlords have made multiple applications