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Licensing private rented homes - insights and experiences from 5 London boroughs

This new research explores the experiences of five London boroughs that have set up discretionary licensing schemes.

Without a licensing programme and resources to inspect, local authorities have very little data on property conditions in their local rental market. Currently, local authorities can set up a local landlord licensing scheme if approved by the Secretary of State.

This research looks at the experience of five boroughs: Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Waltham Forest and Westminster. It suggests that introducing a landlord register alone won’t be enough to tackle poor property conditions, unless supported by an inspection regime.

The report comes at a time when the Renters Reform Bill is making its way through parliament. If passed, the bill will introduce a new ‘Property Portal’ – a national registration scheme.

Key findings

  1. Almost all private rented properties brought forward for licensing are non-compliant. Environmental Health Professionals found that complaints, “in 9 times out of ten, 19 times out of twenty”, related to a property that had been licensed. One borough reported an estimate of 95% of properties that had applied for a licence had not complied with its conditions.
  2. Many were failing because of ‘Category 1’ hazards, which constitute the most serious risk to health. On top of this, many properties required multiple inspections before reaching the required standard.
  3. Local authorities may find the process of introducing discretionary licensing programmes prohibitively expensive and time consuming.
  4. It took time for a licensing scheme to ‘bed in’: in early years, the scheme helped gather intelligence on non-compliance, which then enabled strategic decision-making about how hard-line enforcement should be targeted.

Key recommendations

  1. For licensing to be of value, rather than a 'tick-box' process, local authorities need to be resourced to deliver annual inspections
  2. Licensing regimes should be in place unless and until no longer needed, a period of at least ten years.

For a full list of recommendations and key findings, read the full report.

Find the full report here

About Safer Renting

Safer Renting is one of a diversity of services delivered by Cambridge House, a social action charity established in 1889 to tackle poverty, social inequity, and social injustice across London.

Safer Renting’s work is funded by both charitable foundations and through partnership working with local authorities, for whom we provide a Tenancy Relations service that includes protecting renters from harassment and illegal eviction, sustaining tenancies and preventing homelessness, and working with our clients to navigate the legal system to secure justice and redress.

The Safer Renting model is unique among frontline housing services in its partnership approach with local authorities. Working across so many areas allows us to monitor landlord and agent activities, help partner councils to improve their intelligence about criminal activity, and develop approaches that target and deal with the worst offenders.