Newham Council has led the way by introducing private sector property licensing and the results are encouraging, says Kane Kirkbride. ...

Newham Council was the first local authority to introduce a licensing scheme for all private rented sector properties in the borough. In doing so, it recognised that in comparison with the social housing sector, the PRS is lightly regulated, and poorly managed private rental properties can lead to anti-social behaviour, as well as to unsuitable properties being let in poor condition to vulnerable tenants.

Newham already operates a compulsory licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation under part 2 of the Housing Act 2004. Part 3 of the same act allows local housing authorities to introduce selective licensing of other properties if certain conditions are met, and this is what Newham did.

From January 2013, Newham’s PRS scheme licensed all private rented properties in the borough. Landlords must pay a fee for licensing each property to cover the cost of running the scheme, and any landlord who fails to apply for a licence faces a maximum fine of £20,000.

Newham can also introduce conditions as part of the licence, including meeting space standards as well as standards dealing with anti-social behaviour. These are set out in more detail in Newham’s ‘Private rented property licensing guide for landlords and managing agents’.

It remains to be seen how effective the latter will be in forcing landlords to take legal action to curb anti-social behaviour themselves. But it has already led to a number of multi-agency operations to tackle multiple unlicensed and poorly managed properties, as well as more than 110 arrests including fraud and harassment, so the early signs are encouraging.

Kane Kirkbride is a housing partner at Bevan Brittan,

[, 11 October 2013]