Newham Council applies to extend licensing scheme

One of the rooms Newham Council's landlord licensing team found being rented out. It aims to protect

One of the rooms Newham Council's landlord licensing team found being rented out. It aims to protect private renters from conditions like this. (Picture: Newham Council) - Credit: (Picture: Newham Council)

A five year extension to Newham Council’s private rented sector licensing scheme is to be considered by the government.

The borough was the first authority in the country to require all landlords to licence all property offered for private rent back in 2013 in a bid to protect tenants.

The 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.

Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, has warned the new housing minister, Alok Sharma, that 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 submission.

Mr Sharma’s recommendation on whether to agree to extend Newham Council’s scheme will be subject to ratification by the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid.

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“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 sector,” Sir Robin said.

“We have shown that local solutions, informed by the knowledge of local officers, and backed by political will of local politicians, can be effective.

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“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.

“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.”

Since its introduction, the licensing scheme has seen the council instigated 1,135 prosecutions for housing crimes (70 per cent of all prosecutions in London) and ban 28 of the worst landlords from operating in the borough – forcing them to sell up or hand their properties over to reputable managing agents.

It has also recovered over £2.6m a year in additional council tax and served 2,170 notices to improve housing conditions.

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