New Housing Minister must act to support Newham in protecting renters

13 July 2017 in Housing and Mayor
​Newham Council has this week submitted an application to government to continue it’s ground breaking Private Rented Sector (PRS) Licensing Scheme for another five years.
​Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, has warned the new Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, that local authorities and residents will be watching this decision closely and has called on him to act decisively to protect vulnerable individuals and families living in rental accommodation by supporting Newham’s submissio.
The decision whether or not to approve Newham’s scheme will be one of the first tests of the new government’s housing policy and will show if  they are committed to listening to the ever-increasing numbers of private renters.

Newham was the first authority in the country to introduce borough-wide licensing in 2013, which requires all landlords to licence all property offered for private rent.

Over the last five years Newham Council has made impressive interventions to protect tenants. Not only has the council uncovered inhuman and unsafe conditions but the licensing scheme has also:
  • instigated 1,135 prosecutions for housing crimes (70 per cent of all prosecutions in London)
  • banned 28 of the worst landlords from operating in the borough – forcing them to sell up or hand their properties over to reputable managing agents
  • recovered over £2.6m a year in additional council tax
  • served 2,170 notices to improve housing conditions and management.
Since 2009 the number of households in Newham reliant on the PRS has doubled from 23 per cent to 46 per cent last year.

The council’s original scheme comes to an end in December, and under stricter restrictions imposed by the government in 2015, Newham must now apply to government for permission to continue to protect tenants for another five year period.

Joining a recent enforcement raid Mayor Sadiq Khan saw appalling conditions suffered by vulnerable, exploited tenants at the hands of criminal landlords. He said: “I fully support the excellent work councils like Newham are doing to target the worst offenders in their borough. I will continue to support them and other boroughs that use licensing schemes to effectively drive up standards in the private rented sector.”

Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales said: “Local authorities and our residents will be watching this decision closely. This is one of the first substantial tests of the new government’s housing policy in providing local authorities with genuine powers to protect tenants, tackle criminal landlords and drive up standards across the private rented sector.

“Newham was the first local authority to take decisive action to safeguard vulnerable families and individuals in the private rented sector by introducing borough-wide licensing back in 2013. We have shown that local solutions, informed by the knowledge of local officers, and backed by political will of local politicians, can be highly effective.

“While Newham has made significant progress, there is still more work to do. It is a sad reality that, every week, our officers unearth yet further examples of serious housing crimes; from overcrowding to pest infestations, botched wiring and gas installations to illegal and unsafe conversations. 

“With almost half of Newham’s residents now renting privately, it is more important than ever that government allow us to retain the powers to tackle criminal landlords.

“It would be entirely wrong and a backward step for tenants’ rights if one of the first acts of the new government was to deregulate the housing sector further and deprive our residents of the most effective scheme in the country in safeguarding them from  criminal landlords.”