Newham private rented property licensing scheme: the enforcers go in

28 February 2013 in Community safety and Housing
Enforcement squads are now scouring Newham's streets for private rented properties that have not been licensed - with criminal landlords facing fines of up to £20,000 per property.​
The council has already completed eight days* focusing on rented properties that are breaking the law. Officers and the police have visited more than 100. The first 20 housing prosecutions against rogue landlords are already on the way to court.
Newham is the first council in the country to implement a pioneering scheme to license all private properties. The trail-blazing scheme came into force on 1 January - but landlords were given a month's extension before it took effect. By the beginning of February, 27,000 landlords had applied. ** Applicants normally paid £150 for up to a five year licence if they registered before 31 January, 2013. Otherwise the full fee was £500 for up to a five year licence.
The council is determined to weed out criminal landlords who continue to flout the law and put tenants at risk. It has the capacity to prosecute more than 500 rogue landlords over the next 12 month. This would be more housing enforcement than the whole of the UK put together***
A hit list of all rented properties in the borough that are operating without a licence has been drawn up.
Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: '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 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 - and we are going after them vigorously and robustly.
'We will never accept private sector tenants being directly exploited by landlords who force them to live in dangerous and unacceptable conditions. One bad house can drag down a whole street.'
Sir Robin added: '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.
'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.'
Properties are being targeted by a dedicated team of experienced enforcement officers, comprising Newham's Private Housing team. It works in partnership with the Police, Planning Enforcement, UK Border Agency and HMRC to ensure there is compliance across the board.
The council has consulted extensively with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies about the borough-wide licensing scheme. Seventy-four per cent of residents and 76 per cent of private tenants supported it.
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 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 in the borough's Little Ilford Neighbourhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). Over 30 prosecutions were carried out - more than 10% of properties in the scheme. This resulted in 100% compliance.
Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: 'We are delighted to hear that Newham Council has introduced 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:
* by Friday 1 March
**This refers to the number of applications, not the number of landlords, as some landlords have made multiple applications.
*** (Shelter October 2012 - 487 Housing Act prosecutions 2011/12)​