More landlords could be facing further legislation and red tape, if a London borough gets its way. Brent Council is asking the government to allow it to set up a selective licensing scheme throughout the entire borough. It argues that it is necessary to help it stamp out rogue landlords in the north-west London borough. It would be an administrative headache meaning thousands more properties would be licensed.
The move comes after a raid of an unlicensed bedsit in Brent, where tenants were found to be living in poor conditions. Enforcement officers found people living in 11 damp and unsafe rooms in the house, which had been converted into bedsits. Some of the rooms did not even have windows. Many were found to be mouldy and damp too. The house did not have a working fire safety system, fire escape routes were blocked and poor ventilation in the rooms was causing health hazards. Tenancy agreements showed that the residents were being charged £600 a month to live in such squalid conditions, which means the landlord could be raking in £6,600 a month for the 11 rooms.
So the local authority argues that rolling out borough-wide licensing would be the answer to get rid of rogue landlords or illegal subletters. However, as has been argued so forcibly before, unlicensed landlords will continue to work their way around the system while legitimate landlords find their profits are skimmed further, because they have to pay for licences for each property they own. If a landlord is working outside the system already, then he or she is unlikely to apply for a licence in the future, especially if it has to be paid for and means conditions in the properties have to be improved drastically.
Elsewhere in London, Newham Council has been working with HM Revenue & Customs to identify thousands of landlords who allegedly have not declared their income. This has been possible because of the compulsory licensing scheme operating in the borough. Newham says as many as 13,000 of the 27,000 licensed landlords have not registered for self-assessment or are not declaring their full income. In a letter to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales claimed that HMRC is interested in up to 13,000 landlords, because of alleged discrepancies between the income they have declared and the local authority’s records.
Newham already has a borough-wide licensing scheme, which it introduced in 2013, and it is currently applying for a renewal. In that time, the local authority has instigated 1,135 prosecutions concerning housing regulations and banned 28 landlords from operating in the borough. In this time, it has also recovered more than £2.6 million a year in council tax and served 2,170 notices for landlords to make improvements to their rental properties and management.
So it seems as though there are good and bad points to issuing blanket licenses across a local authority. However, for many landlords, they still feel as though these schemes are a money-making exercise at their expense.
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